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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

New York's Metropolitan Opera, Live in Milwaukee

Area cinemas to show HD broadcasts

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A New York Times reviewer recently noted that visitors to the Big Apple looking for outstanding theater would experience greater satisfaction attending the dynamic, finely honed performances at the Metropolitan Opera rather than the current crop of Broadway shows.

Here in Milwaukee, we can experience opera from the comfort of stadium seats in the multiplex through a series of Saturday afternoon HD live broadcasts directly from the Met stage. Eleven such broadcasts will be shown on large screens at four local theaters—the Majestic, the South Shore, the North Shore and Menomonee Falls. All performances will begin at 11:55 a.m., with encores on various Wednesday evenings. Renée Fleming and other stars will host many of the programs, interviewing singers backstage amid scene-change hubbub.

Opera is a stylized art form not easily accessible to everyone. The Met's efforts to revitalize the medium have been astoundingly successful in tapping the basic human emotions in these classic scores through updated productions that heighten the drama and highlight performances.

Most importantly, a new generation of cinematically attractive, youthful singers has given a new vitality to opera, almost surpassing the operatic glories of yesteryear. Their vitality stands in direct contrast to recent trends in film acting. Met productions of late have been startlingly (and occasionally too realistically) revamped, but the results are invariably exciting.

This season's first telecast, on Oct. 15, will feature Donizetti's Anna Bolena, starring the beautiful Anna Netrebko. She possesses one of the most thrilling, glorious voices in the world, with stunning looks and acting chops to match. As the tragic young queen, she reprises the vocally formidable role once identified with Maria Callas and Beverly Sills. Later in the season, she will reinterpret Massenet's charmingly promiscuous Manon (April 7).

Other star voices will be heard as well. Renée Fleming will display her legendary golden tones in Handel's Baroque masterpiece Rodelinda (Dec. 3). Perhaps the subtlest of the attractive divas is coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, whose riveting performance last year as Lucia was splashed on New York bus boards. She will sing the tragic La Traviata (April 14).

Yet, the most eagerly awaited performance may be German tenor Jonas Kaufmann's debut in Faust (Dec. 10). Handsome, curly-haired and with a rock star's five o'clock shadow, his rich baritone tenor (unlike any heard for decades) created a sensation, moving many to tears in last year's Die Walküre. He brings that amazing sensitivity to French operas as well, to the envy of the aging Placido Domingo, who will himself appear in an unusual, newly created potpourri of early Italian composers—the Met's production of The Enchanted Island (Jan. 21), designed to give audiences a Baroque sampler. For those interested in the avant-garde, the Met will perform Philip Glass's Satyagraha