April 23, 2008

Bravo! Saturday morning at the opera (in Sturtevant)

Last month, Greg Berg of WGTD gave my wife and me two tickets to see The Metropolitan Opera live in HD at The Renaissance movie theater. The broadcast performance was the actual performance that was going in New York, featuring some of the greatest singers in the world.

We're not big opera fans, but we were interested enough to check it out. The show was Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," an opera Greg described as not being the best choice for someone new to the art form. The main reason: It's three acts and six hours long. Still, we decided to go (the tickets were free, right?)

The show we saw was March 22. I bring it up now, because the final Live HD broadcast of the Met season is this Saturday with Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment." It's described as a comedy running 2 hours, 45 minutes. It's much more suitable for the opera novice, according to Greg.

Based on our experience with "Tristan and Isolde," we'd recommend going to see this weekend's show. Here's some pictures and observations from our show:

The performance was amazing. We stayed for two of the three acts and were both amazed by the power and beauty of the singers' performances. How they manage to sustain that level of effort for so long is beyond imagination. (Above and below are photos from inside the theater.)

We learned some interesting things about the show along the way. One, is that the opera was cursed. The male lead, Ben Heppner, had gotten sick and was unable to perform the first three shows of the run. The female lead, Deborah Voight (right), of Chicago, had to perform opposite three different leading men in the first three shows. That's quite impressive considering that "Tristan and Isolde" is considered among the most difficult pieces in the world. When it was first written, conductors had dismissed it as "unperformable," because it was so challenging.

Voight herself fell ill during one performance and had to be replaced in the middle of the show. And, one of the men playing Tristan took a tumble on stage and the show had to be stopped. The version we saw went off flawlessly (so far as we could tell).

My favorite part of the HD show in the movie theater came before the show and during the intermissions. A host interviewed the conductor, James Levine, and Voight, as they came off stage. It was remarkable to see them in a casual setting, and they came off as very kind and interesting people (as opposed to that opera diva attitude I expected). Voight seemed straight out of the Midwest and was very charming.

All in all, it was a great show. We could have stayed for the third act, but hadn't planned on spending the entire day at the opera so we had to leave. It really was remarkable, though, the Met does a wonderful job of bringing world-class opera to the movie screen.

One note of caution: Tickets aren't cheap. We got ours from WGTD, but walking up to the box office will cost you $22 a ticket. It's actually a great deal for what you get (tickets are not $22 to see a show at the Met), but it's quite a bit more than a typical movie.

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