METROPOLITAN OPERA, NEW YORK 2008 – 2009: ON SCREEN IN AUSTRALIA
BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
With the extraordinary success of the 2007/08 season of The Metropolitan Opera
productions captured live in HD for participating Australian cinemas, audiences
have cried out for more. The groundbreaking series (in cinemas around the world)
expands in its third season to 10 operas in 2008/09, up from eight. And it’s
supported by Toll Brothers – a US building company. Andrew L. Urban reports.
Is it opera or is it cinema? Well, it’s both; the New York Met is regarded as a
mecca of opera, attracting the world’s best and producing the most compelling
work. At a very high price. And while it’s not the same as being there in
person, the HD transmissions of their opera productions (screened here about a
week later) offers opera lovers around the world a rare opportunity to
participate in a Met season at a fraction of the cost. And without having to be
in New York. But an even bigger surprise (than near-live opera from New York in
your local cinema), is that a building company is one of the key financial
supporters of the project, alongside PBS plus a “generous grant” from the
Neubauer Family Foundation. This kind of private patronage deserves acclaim.
Natalie Miller of Sharmill Films (who have the rights and run the Nova in
Melbourne) says last year’s debut season was a hit. “I couldn’t get a seat for
The Barber of Seville in my own cinema … is that a hit? I think so. There were
full houses everywhere.” It was Miller’s business partner Barry Peake who first
pursued The Met for the rights, and The Met were delighted, but wanted Sharmill
to sign up cinemas in other states – which they did.
This year, 21 cinemas around the country will screen the new season
transmissions – up from 8 last year, with several regional cinemas
The 2008/09 season was launched last week (August 27, 2008) at Sydney’s Cremorne
Orpheum with a replay of the Met’s 2007/08 world premiere production of Tan
Dun’s The First Emperor, starring Placido Domingo and directed by Zhang Yimou -
director of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, for which Tan Dun wrote the Oscar
winning score. Bruce Beresford, sometime opera director, took time out from post
production on Mao’s Last Dancer, to introduce the film.
"many musical highlights"
The production features spectacular staging and many musical highlights,
including a large production number featuring 16 Chinese drums which the players
beat with potato-sized stones, and also used the stones rubbed together for a
unqiue sound addition.
The HD transmission format offers the opportunity to not only watch the
performance, but to go backstage and to see rehearsal footage during
The season begins on Saturday October 25, with Salome by Richard Strauss, and
continues until May 23, 2009 (ending with La Cenerentola by Rossini); each of
the 10 operas is transmitted once each on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday, and a
new opera begins the following month.
The season includes four brand new productions: La Damnation de Faust by
Berlioz, directed Robert Lepage (December 6, 7 & 11); Massenet’s Thaïs (January
10, 11 & 15); Puccini’s La Rondine (January 31, February 1 & 5); and Bellini’s
La Sonnambula (April 4, 5 & 9). Other productions include Madama Butterfly,
Lucia de Lammermoor and John Adam’s contemporary work, Doctor Atomic (November
22, 23 & 27).
“It’s very exciting to see the digital age working like this for cinema
operators and audiences,” says Miller.
Published September 4, 2008
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Le Damnation de Faust
Australian transmission schedule
Final transmission of The First Emperor:
September 6 & 7, 2008 (check cinemas in schedule for start times)
The legendary tenor Plácido Domingo is Emperor Qin, who founded an empire that
would survive for 2,000 years. Tan Dun's music is a fascinating mix of East and
West and the monumental production is by revered Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou
(Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers and the Opening Ceremony of the
Beijing Olympics) with costumes by Emi Wada (Kurosawa's Ran).