The Met's Live in HD series included more than its share of old warhorses in its first two seasons, perhaps setting Meena and his colleagues' teeth on edge. So far, their third season has been an entirely different affair, with absolutely nothing -- except the holiday reprise of The Magic Flute -- that we've ever seen here live at the PAC or at CP. Nobody can say that the stylish productions of La Rondine or Thais have tread on any Carolina toes.
Exploring the frontiers of operatic repertoire has certainly caused some audience shrinkage for matinee screenings at the Regal Stonecrest, where I saw Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice last Saturday. Although the performance was broadcast live in cineplexes and FM radio in New York, it looked like the house at Lincoln Center was sold-out when the cameras panned over the crowd.
A considerable outlay of coin that I'm almost tempted to second-guess. Stephanie Blythe gave one of the most stupendous vocal performances I've ever witnessed as Orfeo, and Danielle de Neise was delectable as the importunate, irresistible Euridice. But let's face it, with only three roles throughout its 90 minutes, O&E is basically a glorified oratorio.
Likewise, the HD series brought us the glorious music of Berlioz' La Damnation de Faust back in November, a work that seems to fit uncomfortably in a grand opera house. But with modernistic sets, conceptual staging, and 11 cameras zooming in close on the devil, the doctor and the demigods, the HD broadcasts inject a visual, visceral excitement into these relatively static operas.
Were the people in control booth at all sensitive to the music and its proper reproduction, then the sonic experience at Regal Stonecrest might come close to matching the sensation at the Met. Too loud, guys: You're obliterating orchestral detail. But as the cameras zoomed in, I felt we were advantaged, and when Blythe and de Niese lingered behind an incline of black foil for some 15 minutes during their abortive ascent from hell, I found myself pitying the folk who had paid $100 or to see two singing torsos amid a sea of black for a good portion of the show. At the cineplexes, we definitely had the better climax.
Guided by the Met's crack crew, you get a better view for $20 than you do from the prime $275 seats. Intros and fascinating intermission features add to the bargain. Live audience and Live HD viewers can complete their experience with the same follow-up: Wait for the Met to issue the broadcasts on DVD.