Experiences with Met Opera HD events in theaters?
December 29, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in attending one of the upcoming Met Opera HD live events at a local movie theater, probably for one of the Saturday Matinees in Savannah, GA. Does anyone have any experiences with this? Are there English subtitles? Is the audience etiquette generally better, worse, or about the same as a movie? Or are we likely to be two people among a dozen opera buffs? It's been years since I've seen an opera, and that was usually in the $12 seats in the third balcony.
posted by KirkJobSluder to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
I've seen a number of HD simulcasts given by the SF Opera at AT&T Park - each time it's spectacular. We're usually sitting on the field with a small picnic and a blanket and surrounded by kids, watching the event (with supertitles) on a massive, modern HD scoreboard with speakers hung from cranes in the outfield.

I love it, and I can't imagine the theatre experience would be terrible, although it would lack the charm and novelty. :) I have seen a number of performances in person in both cheap and great seats, and while they are not directly comparable, it's certainly just as easy to take in the performance in such a non-traditional setting.. in fact, it was probably more enjoyable than the cheapest seats by far.
posted by kcm at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2009

I went to one last year in Maine. They're almost always a sellout here. Yes, there are subtitles, and also some introductory matter from somebody backstage. It was excellent, and certainly cheaper than going to New York, but the one thing that disappointed me was that I thought they were just going to be turning a camera on the stage and it would be like we were sitting in a theater. Instead, it was being "directed," so we had closeups and long shots and all kinds of things, somebody else deciding what I got to look at. I wanted something closer to the theater experience. But I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
posted by JanetLand at 8:49 AM on December 29, 2009

I work at a cinema in the UK that's showing these. They're very well done, and very well attended - all of ours bar Hamlet sold out months ago. I've never been to a live opera, so I can't compare directly, but it is a more cinematic experience than a regular theatre production. I didn't mind the close-ups, as a full stage view would actually be far too wide on a cinema screen.

Our audience is almost unilaterally middle-aged upwards, and are very well behaved for the most part.
posted by Magnakai at 8:55 AM on December 29, 2009

I went to one in Atlanta 3 years ago. We had to drive over an hour to get to the theater and it was pouring rain. We got there about 5-6 minutes after it started. Because of the nature of the image on the screen (the Opera stage and not your usual brightly lit, movie image) the theater was pitch black dark. No ambient light to operate by. We couldn't see our hand in front of our face. I was 8 months pregnant and trying to find a seat in total blackness. People were being very rude and one lady actually pushed me. Then a man yelled at me. I know it was my fault for being late but I really expected more from an audience of Opera fans. I was in tears at this point, so scared that I would fall and hurt the baby. We left and the movie wouldn't refund our $45.

So....it might have been a fabulous experience but don't be late and bring a small flashlight in case you have to get up.
posted by pearlybob at 9:06 AM on December 29, 2009

I attended a re-run of Dr. Atomic by John Adams at a cineplex last year. It was not technically live, and the theatre wasn't too crowded. Older polite audience. The projection and sound were really good, almost like being there, if you let your imagination go.

For these shows there are always English subtitles, and during the intermission there is usually a swell little documentary about backstage mechanics which is quite interesting.

Dr. Atomic was slow in parts, but that fancy state-of-the-art Met staging at the climax was one of the most mind-boggling things I had ever seen. The riggers created an illusion of buildings exploding in slow motion, with large chunks of debris suspended from wires floating over the stage.

I would recommend it.
posted by ovvl at 9:40 AM on December 29, 2009

Oh, and the audience -- mostly middle-aged to elderly, quieter than a movie audience, although they did clap, which amused me.
posted by JanetLand at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2009

I've been to two. One was during the first season that the Met did the HD thing: it was completely sold out (Magic Flute) and I ended up sitting in the 3rd row. The other was last season, a lesser-known opera (Puccini's La Rondine), and there were seven people there.

They've greatly expanded the number of theaters that show the Met in HD since it started, but there's a limit to how many people will spend $20 on an event that they don't already know they'll enjoy. That said, you should totally go cuz opera is teh awesome.
posted by shiny blue object at 1:32 PM on December 29, 2009

I occasionally usher at our local broadcast to help out the organization that sponsors it. It's a great way to get in for free, if you're able to do that.

The opera experience itself is great, and I really enjoy being able to see the closeups of the singers' faces. The backstage and pre/post-show stuff is pretty nice, too, especially when they have someone charming and fun like Natalie Dessay who would otherwise be singing herself. It's neat to see someone out of their usual place like that.

The light situation is a major downside, especially when you consider that the majority of patrons are older, may have mobility issues, etc. We asked if it was possible to have the lights up, since it was clearly not starting any time soon (they show a live feed of the hall for 15-20 minutes before the performance that doesn't include any backstage stuff, etc.), and the management said that they were required to have the lights down when they were showing anything moving on the screen, even if it was obviously not an essential part of the presentation. (This was with the Marcus chain in Wisconsin.) We've tried to alleviate that with a bunch of those battery-powered LED tap lights placed along the aisles, and we bring flashlights to help seat latecomers.

That said, it's a pretty good time. In our area, it's usually pleasantly full but not super packed, so I can do my usual lounge-with-feet-up and chomp popcorn/nachos to my heart's delight. And, really, where else can you do that?
posted by Madamina at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2009

My wife and I have been going for two years now and I can say these broadcasts are great. (We go the ones shown in Raleigh, NC.) They are always sold out and we are about 30 years younger than the rest of the audience; it is a well behaved, knowledgeable bunch of opera buffs. Getting to the theater early is a must. We always get there about an hour ahead of time and so do most of the other patrons.

I cannot recommend attending the Met HD broadcasts enough.
posted by pasici at 7:09 AM on December 30, 2009

Thanks, multiple posts marked as best answer.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2010

I know it was my fault for being late but I really expected more from an audience of Opera fans.

Incidentally, at the real Met, there are no late entries, period. If you're late you have to sit in the lobby watching it on the TV until intermission.
posted by smackfu at 9:04 AM on January 25, 2010

I know smackfu, I've attended several Met performances. This was a movie theater in suburban Atlanta. I would have appreciated a policy like that and gladly waited if I had known that I was going to be yelled at and pushed. No matter the event or the breach of etiquette, it was beyond the pale.
posted by pearlybob at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2010

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