La Scena Musicale

Thursday, December 13, 2007

High Definition Opera and Ballet Heat Up in December

Worldwide, the innovation of the last season was the Met Opera at the Movies Series. Such was its success that other art forms and other competition are poised to enter the marketplace.

This Saturday (December 15th), the Metropolitan Opera begins their second season of the Metropolitan Opera: Live in High Definition with Gounod's Romeo and Juliet with a star-studded cast: Russian diva Anna Netrebko as Juliet opposite the Romeo of Roberto Alagna who replaces the ailing Rolando Villazón; Placido Domingo conducts. The Met will increase to 8 LIVE High Definition videocasts from 6 shows last year, with an equal number of encore presentations, usually three weeks later. In Canada, 100 theatres of the Cineplex chain and Empire Theatres (maritimes) will be showing the series. In the US, these HD presentations will also be available on pay-per-view according to an article by Associated Press's Ronald Blum.

Ballet is also getting into the act. The season's hot ticket is Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and the National Ballet of Canada will show their sold-out December 22nd matinee performance at Cineplex theatres in Live HD. Read the press release from Cineplex.

Not to be out done, Britain's Opus Arte, a leader in opera and ballet on DVD, in collaboration with Montreal's DigiScreen (a Daniel Langlois company) will be showing recorded and edited High Definition versions of operas and the San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker in selected movie theatres across Canada, the US and Europe; in Canada, Empire Theatres picks up the Nutcraker plus four independent cinemas in Montreal, Toronto, Waterloo and Vancouver.

Montreal's Cinema du Parc gets the ball rolling on December 15 and 16 with Verdi's La Traviata recorded in 2006 at the Theatro Madrid. The coincidence of scheduling head-to-head against the Met did not escape reporters. This series is likely to get off to a slow start as there was little marketing or PR. Without coordination of the offerings, the series lack the feeling of an event; each city has different programming except for the December 22 Nutcracker which competes directly with Cineplex again. According to DigiScreen's news release and website, the lesser known Spanish zazurella Luiza Fernanda will screen on January 19, 2008, but not at the Cinema du Parc in Montreal which will show La Bohème on January 12-13.

The Opus Arte / DigiScreen HD picture is even better than what I remember of last year's MET HD and the surround sound is superb.
According to Cinema du Parc's Marc Lamothe, the theatre installed special proprietary HD equipment and the tape is similar to HD Beta. I had the pleasure of viewing a preview screening of Traviata and the experience is well worth the $20 admission. As Violetta, Norah Amsellem gave a masterful and touching performance; she looked quite the part too. Jose Bros was convincing as Alfredo and Renato Bruson shrugged off a rough start to sing a strong performance. Pier Luigi Pizzi's 1950s sets is beautiful. Although he has announced programming only through January, Lamothe plans more shows in February and March and possibly beyond in the Saturday and Sunday afternoon slot.

Here are our picks through January:

December 15: Romeo and Juliet (MET). Montrealers: If it's sold out, head to La Traviata (Cinema du Parc, Montreal)
December 16: La Traviata (Cinema du Parc, Montreal)
December 22: Nutcracker - Toss up between National Ballet and San Francisco
Dec. 23, 29, 30, Jan. 5, 6: Encore San Francisco Nutcracker (Cinema du Parc, Montreal)
January 1: Hansel und Gretel (MET)
January 5: Encore
Romeo and Juliet (MET)
January 12: Verdi, MacBeth (MET). Montrealers: If it's sold out, head to La Boheme (Cinema du Parc, Montreal)
January 13: La Boheme (Cinema du Parc, Montreal)
January 19: Luiza Fernanda (Toronto, Waterloo, Vancouver)
January 26: Hansel und Gretel (MET)

Adult Price: $19.95


> Metropolitan Opera
> Cineplex
> DigiScreen
> Cinema du Parc

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