Monday, October 25, 2010

Operas in Theaters and Movie Theaters

I had a big day of opera on Saturday, at the Metropolitan's HD Simulcast of Boris Godunov, starring the great Rene Pape (left) in the much-lauded production directed by Stephen Wadsworth, in the morning, and then a live performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, featuring the amazing Aleksandra Kurzak, at Seattle Opera in the evening. Both had mad scenes. But the experiences were more different than they were similar, and I turn to long-time Seattle Opera attendee MARY BRAZEAU for a common-sense perspective on why she goes to movies and to live performances.

"Much has been made of the HD Broadcasts of opera, and I don’t deny that they have a certain appeal. The price is right, you are seeing, arguably, some of the most recognizable names in opera with an intimacy not found from the best seats in the house and in productions that have the luxury of great financial resources. In addition there are usually interviews and behind the scenes footage to add to the experience. Personally, I am not a fan of all the backstage filming usually included as part of these broadcasts. When a soprano has been transporting us with her artistry convincing us that she is a foolish young girl in love, I do not want to see her galumphing backstage in a sweat, huffing and puffing and chugging from a water bottle, destroying the fragile magic of the theatre she had, just moments ago, been working to create.

"Saturday night, at the opening of Lucia di Lammermoor, however, the real reason for me that HD Broadcasts will never replace the live experience was made manifest. During the famous mad scene, over 2000 individuals became one. Collectively we held our breath, mesmerized while Aleksandra Kurzak astounded us with her portrayal of the desperately unhinged Lucia. Then there was the wall of energy that rushed from the auditorium to the stage as the crowd roared its approval. So palpable was it that I literally expected to see hats fly off of heads and the performers on stage buffeted about as if by a gale wind.

"There is a special alchemy that takes place with live performance. As an avid movie fan and regular attendee of the Seattle International Film Festival I have seen many films that have moved me deeply, but it has always been an solitary experience. As a member of the opera audience I participate in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. A special relationship exists between the audience and the performers, each feeding off of the energy of the other and responding in real time. The level of excitement Saturday night was special, but not unique in my lifetime of attending live performance; and it is something I would not exchange for any amount of popcorn and free parking."

--Mary Brazeau