Metropolitan Opera HD Encore/Agrippina at AMC Elmwood Palace 20 through May 13 (hopefully) plus “Nightly Met Opera Streams”
One might think of the Met’s HD Broadcasts as substitutes, most worthy substitutes but still substitutes, for the thrill of attending live performances. And you might be right.
Yet such broadcasts can provide front row seats to superb productions. And in these crazy and unusual times, with the Metropolitan Opera just announcing that it will be shuttered for the rest of the season, there’s some good news.
Thru March 29, at least, and now apparently through “the duration of the Met’s closure”, the Met is streaming an opera a day from their Live in HD series of cinema transmissions. All “Nightly Met Opera Streams” begin at 7:30pm EDT/6:30pm CDT and remain available via the homepage of metopera.org for 20 hours. The homepage link opens the performance on the Met Opera on Demand streaming service. The performance will also be viewable on all Met Opera on Demand apps.
So far there’s been a magnificent screening of Bizet’s Carmen from 2010 starring Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (when he still had hair) as well as a lovely La Bohème from 2008 starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas.
With everyone stuck at home, these have been immensely popular. In fact the Met posted “The response to our Nightly Met Opera Streams has been overwhelming, with tens of thousands of opera lovers around the world connecting simultaneously. We are doing everything we can to increase capacity.”
In my experience, if you log on in the evening, say, until 10 or 11pm, you may have to wait in a “queue” for the streaming to start. If you try to connect in the wee hours of the night, however, as I did for Bohème, that will likely not be an issue. (*Update: Il Trovatore loaded immediately at 7pm, so I assume the Met did indeed increase its capacity.)
I don’t know if the recent transmission of Agrippina by George Frideric Handel will be aired as part of this new series but I certainly hope so. I saw it at AMC Elmwood Palace 20 before the madness struck. Even tho it ran nearly 4 hours, I didn’t want it to end.
Agrippina was Handel’s first big operatic success. If you love Baroque music, as I do, you will want to make every effort to see this tale from ancient Rome involving Claudius and his wife Agrippina who hopes to place her son Nero (of fiddling fame) on the throne. The libretto by Vincenzo Grimani, a Roman Cardinal, combines sly social satire with an underlying humanity so that the humor never becomes coarse, but reflects our timeless shortcomings.
In this marvelous production, tho it never directly referenced our President (the production, while making its Met debut, has been traveling around world stages for over 20 years), it was easy to see parallels between the self-centered, incompetent and self-deluding leaders of 2000 years ago and today.
Director David McVicar gave the opera a modern gloss with stylish contemporary costumes and a sleek set, both by John Macfarlane. As the director stated in an interview that was part of the intermission feature “I wanted it to be a world that audiences would recognize.”
Although McVicar’s staging and Andrew George’s inventive choreography meshed perfectly and enhanced the narrative, it remains a mostly static one overflowing with gorgeous arias and some duets; there are no great crowd scenes as in Bohème or Aida nor did McVicar fill the stage with projections and animated images as William Kentridge did for Lulu and Wozzeck. Because of that, this is the perfect production for the HD series where close-ups bring you face to face with the singers without sacrificing anything else occurring on stage.
For example, in Act Two’s bar scene, on screen it’s easy to see when the young Nero pulls out a condom packet rather than a credit card. When I saw Agrippina live at the Met a few weeks later (told you I didn’t want it to end), that detail was lost in the vast auditorium.
Similarly, if it was fantastic to hear Joyce DiDonato, brilliant as Agrippina, live, I missed the close-ups of her deadpan, imperious expressions that could be fully appreciated on the screen.
Another benefit of the HD broadcast were the insightful interviews that host Deborah Voigt conducted during intermission with the astounding cast. How these artists (Kate Lindsey, Brenda Rae, Duncan Rock, Matthew Rose, Nicholas Tamagna, and the sublime countertenor Iestyn Davies as well as DiDonato) can sing Handel’s challenging music and then come off the stage and chat so engagingly, at times even jokingly, is beyond me.
Going forward, here is the schedule thus far, with an all-Wagner second week just announced:
Wednesday, March 18 – Verdi’s Il Trovatore, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring the great Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
Thursday, March 19 – Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Diana Damrau, the very cute Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey.
Friday, March 20 – Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez again(!).
Saturday, March 21 – Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, and Mariusz Kwiecien.
Sunday, March 22 – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, conducted by Valery Gergiev, starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
Monday, March 23 – Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Simon Rattle, starring Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova, Stuart Skelton, Evgeny Nikitin, and René Pape.
Tuesday, March 24 – Wagner’s Das Rheingold, conducted by James Levine, starring Wendy Bryn Harmer, Stephanie Blythe, Dwayne Croft, Bryn Terfel, Eric Owens, and Hans-Peter König.
Wednesday, March 25 – Wagner’s Die Walküre, conducted by James Levine, starring Deborah Voigt, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Stephanie Blythe, Jonas Kaufmann, and Bryn Terfel.
Thursday, March 26 – Wagner’s Siegfried, conducted by Fabio Luisi, starring Deborah Voigt, Hunter Morris, Gerhard Siegel, Bryn Terfel, and Eric Owens.
Friday, March 27 – Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, conducted by Fabio Luisi, starring Deborah Voigt, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Waltraud Meier, Eric Owens, and Hans-Peter König.
Saturday, March 28 – Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted by James Levine, starring Annette Dasch, Johan Botha, Paul Appleby, and Michael Volle.
Sunday, March 29 – Wagner’s Tannhäuser, conducted by James Levine, starring Eva-Marie Westbroek, Michelle DeYoung, Johan Botha, Peter Mattei, and Gunther Groissböck.
And perhaps I’m being optimistic but, hopefully, The Met HD Transmissions will be able to conclude the season as scheduled in theaters with Tosca starring Anna Netrebko (Apr. 11, 15 and 18); and Diana Damrau & Jamie Barton in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (May 9 and 13). Fingers crossed that the Met will be back & up’n’running by then and that movie theaters will have reopened! (*Update: Alas, I was too optimistic as the entire season has now been cancelled; what a shame that we won’t be able to enjoy these two performances. Stay tuned, however, for updates as the Met announces future “Nightly Met Opera Streams”.)