'The Met: Live in HD' season underway

Live opera in your local movie palace. Best deal in town. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2012— With its latest season already underway, the 2012-2013 edition of “The Met: Live in HD”—the Metropolitan Opera’s award-winning series of live transmissions to movie theaters around the world—promises to be another winner for area opera fans unable or unwilling to head up to the Big Apple to take in a live performance. The venues for these live opera simulcasts are many of your own local movie theaters, and the price for tickets, while generally higher than your average first-run film tab, is still astoundingly cheap by live opera standards. 

“Our live transmissions continue to transform the public’s perception of opera and to excite our performers and our audiences around the world,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb in a press release earlier this season. “For our entire company, there is nothing quite like one of our adrenaline-packed Saturday matinee broadcasts,” he continued. Say, that’s pretty good marketing, we have to admit. But having taken in several Met simulcasts, we’d have to agree with Mr. Gelb’s sentiments, even the adrenaline-packed part. 

The Met’s new HD theater season opened on October 13 with a performance of Donizetti’s popular L’Elisir d’Amore. But there are still plenty of additional opera offerings on tap. In a typical performance, the audience gets more than their money’s worth, as each opera dazzles with the world’s top opera stars along with production budgets most opera companies—including our own here in DC—can only dream about. 

Desdemona is in a bit of a public pickle here. Renée Fleming as Desdemona with Michael Fabiano as Cassio, James Morris as Lodovico, and Falk Struckmann as Iago in a scene from Verdi’s “Otello”. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Taken at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on October 2, 2012 

According to the opera company’s recent release,“The Met: Live in HD, is now shown in more than 1,700 theaters in 54 countries, making the Met the only arts institution with an ongoing global art series of this scale. The company was the first arts company to experiment as an alternative content provider, beginning on a modest scale in 2006. Since then, its program has grown every season, with more than 9.6 million tickets sold to date. Close to 3 million tickets are expected to be sold in the current season alone. 

“Met opera stars serve as hosts for the HD series, conducting live interviews with cast, crew, and production teams, and introducing the popular behind-the-scenes features; altogether the worldwide HD audience is given an unprecedented look at what goes into the staging of an opera at one of the world’s great houses.” 

Tickets for this season’s Met transmissions are already on sale in the U.S. and Canada, with Met Members offered priority before tickets are made available to the general public. 

For a PDF listing of U.S. theaters featuring Met performances this season, click here. For advance ticket sales, click here and follow the prompts. Note: Among many choices, DC area residents can enjoy these operas in IMAX at Alexandria’s Hoffman 22 with IMAX or at Tyson’s Corner 16 with IMAX and ETX in the Tyson’s Corner I shopping mall. 

The following is a list of the Met’s HD performances for the remainder of the Fall opera season, through December 31, 2012. We’ll be back with 2013 info in late December. Information below is taken from the Met’s season press release, and Terry’s comments follow, geared toward movie theater patrons interested in viewing the simulcasts of these productions.

The Met’s 2012 List of coming HD attractions:

Otello – Giuseppe Verdi – October 27, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ET (Approximate running time: 185 minutes)

Conductor: Semyon Bychkov

Production: Elijah Moshinsky

Set Designer: Michael Yeargan

Costume Designer: Peter J. Hall

Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler

Choreographer: Eleanor Fazan

Cast: Renée Fleming (Desdemona), Johan Botha (Otello), Michael Fabiano (Cassio), Falk Struckmann (Iago)

Verdi’s towering masterpiece, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, makes its first Live in HD appearance. Semyon Bychkov conducts an extraordinary cast led by Johan Botha in the title role of the jealous Moor of Venice, opposite Renée Fleming in one of her greatest roles, Otello’s innocent wife Desdemona. Falk Struckmann sings Iago, Otello’s disloyal ensign, and Michael Fabiano is the captain Cassio.

Iago, as usual, is clearly up to no good here, working on Othello’s overdeveloped sense of jealousy. Johan Botha as the title character and Falk Struckmann as Iago in Verdi’s “Otello.” (Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Taken at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on October 3, 2012)

Terry’s Take:

One of Verdi’s greatest operas, this upcoming Met production features a great cast and is bound to be one of the season’s most exciting.


The Tempest – Thomas Adès – November 10, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ET (Approximate running time: 120 minutes)

Met Premiere

Conductor: Thomas Adès

Libretto: Meredith Oakes

Production: Robert Lepage

Set Designer: Jasmine Catudal

Costume Designer: Kym Barrett

Lighting Designer: Michel Beaulieu

Video Designer: David Leclerc

Cast: Audrey Luna (Ariel), Isabel Leonard (Miranda), Iestyn Davies (Trinculo), Alek Shrader (Ferdinand), Alan Oke (Caliban), William Burden (King of Naples), Toby Spence (Antonio), Simon Keenlyside (Prospero)

British composer Thomas Adès makes his company debut conducting the Met premiere of his opera The Tempest, which has been widely praised as a modern masterpiece. In Robert Lepage’s innovative production, Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, has created a replica of La Scala on his remote island, where he practices his otherworldly arts. Simon Keenlyside sings Prospero, as he did to critical acclaim in the opera’s world premiere at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. “The Tempest is an extraordinary, exquisite composition.” Lepage says. “The opera captures the magic of Shakespeare’s last play. It is a box full of magic tricks, which makes it a gift for me and for the designers.” The opera also stars Isabel Leonard as Prospero’s daughter, Miranda; Toby Spence as his brother, Antonio; Audrey Luna as the spirit Ariel; Iestyn Davies as the jester, Trinculo; Alek Shrader in his Met debut as the noble Ferdinand; Alan Oke as the monstrous Caliban; and William Burden as the King of Naples. The libretto, by Meredith Oakes, is adapted from the original text of Shakespeare’s play. 

Isabel Leonard as Miranda and Simon Keenlyside as Prospero in Thomas Adès’s “The Tempest.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Taken at the Metropolitan Opera on October 15, 2012

Terry’s Take: Mr. Adès’ 2004 opera premiered in Covent Garden that year and received its American premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 2006. This is the opera’s first performance at the Met. We confess to being unfamiliar with Mr. Adès’ work at present, but it’s always a great opportunity when you get to hear new work from a living composer who’s actually conducting his work as the composer will be in these performances. After many decades wandering in the atonal desert, younger composers have been flirting with regaining a popular audience once again. Perhaps Mr. Adès (b. 1971) is one of them and if so, the audience is likely to be well rewarded for attending.


La Clemenza di Tito – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – December 1, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ET (Approximate running time: 175 minutes)

Conductor: Harry Bicket

Production: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Set & Costume Designer: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler

Cast: Lucy Crowe (Servilia), Barbara Frittoli (Vitellia), Elīna Garanča (Sesto), Kate Lindsey (Annio), Giuseppe Filianoti (Tito) 

Mozart’s final Italian opera, La Clemenza di Tito, features a charismatic cast conducted by Baroque specialist Harry Bicket and led by Giuseppe Filianoti as the title character, a Roman emperor. Barbara Frittoli is the vengeful Vitellia, daughter of a deposed ruler, whose plan to assassinate Tito is complicated by her romance with the young nobleman Sesto, sung by Elīna Garanča. Kate Lindsey and Lucy Crowe co-star as the young lovers Annio and Servilia. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s stylized production is one of the legendary director’s most acclaimed stagings.

Terry’s Take: When I was growing up, many moons ago, alas, I’d never even heard of this opera. Today, it’s frequently performed and is regarded as one of Mozart’s masterpieces. The plot is serious, not comic, and the music, as usual, is exquisite as are the work’s classical but still very human characters. If you haven’t managed to see it here in DC in recent years (it was performed fairly recently at Wolf Trap), here’s your chance. 


Un Ballo in Maschera - Giuseppe Verdi – December 8, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ET (Approximate running time: 200 minutes)

Conductor: Fabio Luisi

Production: David Alden

Set Designer: Paul Steinberg

Costume Designer: Brigitte Reiffenstuel

Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman

Choreographer: Maxine Braham

Cast: Sondra Radvanovsky (Amelia), Kathleen Kim (Oscar), Stephanie Blythe (Ulrica), Marcelo Álvarez (Gustavo III), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Anckarström)

Verdi’s vivid drama of jealousy and vengeance will be seen in a new production by acclaimed opera director David Alden, returning to the Met for the first time in more than 20 years. Fabio Luisi conducts his first Met performances of the opera, which stars Sondra Radvanovsky in her Met role debut as Amelia, Marcelo Álvarez as Gustavo III, Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Anckarström, Stephanie Blythe as the fortuneteller Ulrica, and Kathleen Kim as the page Oscar. Alden, whose production is set in a dreamlike, early 20th-century Swedish environment, says that “Un Ballo in Maschera is one of Verdi’s greatest and most brilliant scores, with a variety of different colors. It alternates between the light and the intensely melodramatic. Verdi pulls it all together with unbelievable theatrical energy. Ballo is theatrical dynamite.”

Terry’s Take: Although we’ve seen Dmitri Hvorostovsky here before in concert, we have yet to hear him sing in a live opera performance, and this one is a great way to do it. More vintage Verdi, with plenty of high melodrama and showy solos.


Aida – Giuseppe Verdi – December 15, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ET

(Approximate running time: 220 minutes)

Conductor: Fabio Luisi

Production: Sonja Frisell

Set Designer: Gianni Quaranta

Costume Designer: Dada Saligeri

Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler

Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky

Cast: Liudmyla Monastyrska (Aida), Olga Borodina (Amneris), Roberto Alagna (Radamès), George Gagnidze (Amonasro), Štefan Kocán (Ramfis), Miklós Sebestyén (The King)

Verdi’s iconic opera set in ancient Egypt stars powerhouse Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who makes her Met debut in the title role of an enslaved Ethiopian princess. Olga Borodina, one of the world’s best-known interpreters of the role, sings Aida’s royal rival, Amneris, and Roberto Alagna is the hero Radamès, who must choose between his love for Aida and his duty to his country. Fabio Luisi conducts his first Met performances of the opera, which also stars George Gagnidze as the Ethiopian king, Amonasro. Sonja Frisell’s spectacular staging uses the full theatrical capabilities of the Met stage to immerse the audience in the grandeur of ancient Egypt.

Terry’s Take: Goodness, what’s with all the Verdi this year? That said, most audiences can’t get enough, with only Puccini and Mozart being bigger draws. Aïda is a crowd pleaser with gorgeous music and—if done with a nice, big budget—enough spectacle to rival that old Hollywood spectacle “Ben-Hur” starring Charlton Heston. The Washington National Opera’s last outing with Aïda was back in the bad old days when the company was briefly exiled to Constitution Hall while the Kennedy Center’s Opera House was being renovated—roughly a decade ago. That production was notable for its early—and highly effective use—of projected scenery. It also made ample use of its temporary thrust stage for some spectacular entrances. The Met’s production will likely be equally spectacular but in a more conventional way. Which is actually a good thing for Aïda traditionalists. No word, though, as to whether we’ll get horses or elephants.

That’s it for now. We’ll be back with the rest in late December.


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17

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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times (1994-2009). 

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