The Met: Live in HD launches its season at local theaters.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
New York’s prestigious 131-year-old Metropolitan Opera, aka The Met, is a legendary institution that, over the years, has made progressive overtures to a wider audience.
In 1930 they began radio broadcasts of live performances, which they’ve upheld through to the age of satellite radio. They first tried their hand at TV broadcasts in 1948, but that didn’t take regularly until 1977; it peaked in 1989 with the telecast of Wagner’s massive Ring Cycle, and finally fizzled a few years later.
Their newest salvo in their efforts to expand their audience uses high-definition digital satellite broadcasting and sound. Launched in 2006, The Met: Live in HD is a partnership between the opera house and NCM Fathom, which has access to a network of 17,000 movie screens. That technology was first used to beam advertising on the screen, but in 2006, enter the Julie Taymor (The Lion King, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) production of the Magic Flute. That experiment, simulcast on 100 screens in several countries, struck gold.
The partnership is growing in surprisingly strong bursts, winning an Emmy, a Peabody and, importantly, bigger audiences, filling about 90 percent of movie theater seats per performance.
The 2011-12 season, beginning this Saturday with Donizetti’s difficult and daring bel canto opera Anna Bolena, sung by star soprano Anna Netrebko, will be simulcast to 630 theaters in the U.S. (1,600 theaters in 51 countries total). The rest of the season features a world premiere of The Enchanted Island, new productions for Don Giovanni, Faust and others, and Philip Glass’ Satyagraha, probably owing to the composer’s 75th birthday year. Each Saturday live matinee performance is followed three weeks later by an encore; at intermission, the camera goes backstage for interviews and special programs; and the picture quality and sound is so good it can be overwhelming, especially in the morning. But you can have popcorn, hot dogs and soda. You can’t do that at the Met.
THE MET: LIVE IN HD runs 9:55am Saturday (encore 6:30pm Nov. 2), at Century Cinemas and Northridge Cinemas. $15-$24. www.fandago.com/centurytheatres.