My wife and I did something last night that we've been meaning to do for a long time. We went to a local movie theatre to see a Metropolitan Opera production on the big screen.
Allow me to reduce my reaction to one word - W-O-W.
Really that sums it up. But now I'll use more words to explain why.
We saw Rossini's "Le Comte Ory" which is part of The Met's current Encore presentation of productions from their 2010-2011 season.
Here's their website about their incredible HD big screen presentations:
The Met - Live in HD
"Le Comte Ory" isn't exactly an all-time favorite opera. In fact, this is the first time The Met has ever done it. Both the score and the required voices are so devilishly difficult, the Met just never attempted it before.
Rossini's music for the opera is very fun and lively if not especially significant. But this modern production is simply brilliant in its conception, and the performers are, without exception, amazing - They make The Met's hyperbolic slogan "The greatest voices in the world" seem true enough.
Juan Diego Florez is stunning in the lead role. His crystal clear tenor is a constant thrill to hear. Equally as impressive is Diana Damrau in the female lead. I can't say I've ever heard a more thoroughly enjoyable soprano. Her cadenzas rise and fall flawlessly like smoothly spun silk. And her comedic abilities are just astounding, so effortless and sophisticated. Just watching her hands flutter in the best comic take off on 19th Century Delsarte presentational acting I've ever seen kept me laughing out loud.
And the sound! They've achieved what I find to be the perfect balance between the natural sound of that great Met orchestra and a thorough, professionally produced theatre sound. Every instrument is crystal clear, every voice perfectly heard - It's better than what you would hear live at the opera house. It's obviously been complexly mixed and produced, but in a way that the results sound completely organic. Incredible. Anyone who still thinks that strings, for instance, need to stay moved down in a mix should hear these Very up-front strings which are athletically chugging away almost non-stop for 2 1/2 hours.
--Don't care for opera? A lot of people don't. I only discovered my own taste for it not that many years ago. Opera is unique in its impossibly over-the-top storytelling, and I find the whole experience of seeing the absurd stories unfold through the equally bold and theatrical scores to be a truly Surreal experience that can't be had any other way.
People with musical tastes that are mostly in the popular vein can stay away from opera, thinking it will be too corny and classical to be entertaining. People with more sophisticated musical tastes can think of opera in a rather opposite way, finding its music too old fashioned, in bad taste, and just too cliched to be enjoyable.
But I say if people who have stayed away from opera for Any reason would just give themselves up to the experience, just sit down and let this gigantic form of performing art sweep over them - I don't know how they couldn't be glad they did.
And this modern development of having the top-notch Met productions available in our local movie theatres is clearly the best thing that's happened to this unfortunately dying art form in decades. I think if the general public really understood how exciting this experience can be, they'd make The Met Live in HD showings as popular as Hollywood blockblusters like "The Avengers."
Can you tell I had a good time? I encourage everyone to seek these events out. This particular Summer Encore series is happening right now. There are 4 more operas in the series, starting with the great "Don Giovanni" on June 27th and ending with "Der Rosenkavalier" on July 25th.