Met opener an opaque experience

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Metropolitan Opera opened its 125th season Monday night with a glitzy, relentlessly promoted evening as Renee Fleming tackled a trio of favored roles in separate staged acts, with tenor Ramon Vargas and baritone Thomas Hampson providing backup firepower.

The added novelty was that the gala was transmitted live throughout North America at movie theaters as part of The Met: Live in HD series. I caught the La Traviata and Manon excerpts at the South Beach Stadium on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Fleming looked radiant— though alarmingly thin, a soprano friend thought—and for the most part sang with gorgeous tone, security, dramatic depth and emotional commitment, The popular soprano was at her finest in Act 2 of Traviata, bringing a world-weary sadness and desperate sensuality to the doomed Violetta, with excellent support from Vargas and Hampson, as Alfredo and Germont.

The Massenet fared less well with awkward stage direction and a bland designer gown, Fleming as Manon indulging in the odd pauses and italicized emphases she sometimes falls prey to. Vargas was terrific, however, fiery and intense with big vibrant tone in Ah, fuyez.

I left before the Capriccio finale, partly due to an early morning flight and partly due to the mounting frustration of watching the poor quality image on the big screen. This is the second Live in HD performance I attended at this theater and also the second time I’ve experienced inferior video. After I reported the dark, muddy image for Romeo et Juliette in the Miami Herald last season, I was assured by top Met officials that this was a fluke, and that the matter was investigated and the issue rectified.

Apparently not, because the image was once again washed out, lacking color and sharpness with a muted gray-green hue predominating. The Manon in particular was so opaque and devoid of color it looked like a 1950s black-and-white TV relay. The event was live from the Met as promised, but the image on the South Beach screen was incontrovertibly not high-definition quality. Again.

For the next broadcast, Strauss’s Salome with Karita Mattila on Oct. 11, I’ll try a different theater and report back. Meanwhile I’m interested in hearing about the experiences of others who attended Monday’s Met transmission. Feel free to post a comment and please be specific about the location and theater where you attended.

Posted in Performances, review

2 Responses to “Met opener an opaque experience”

  1. Posted Sep 24, 2008 at 11:40 am by HD in Boston

    Thank you for mentioning the poor video quality!

    I experienced exactly the same thing at the HD performance in Boston and reported to The Met via email the washed-out colors (it was difficult at times to discern the colors of the very large jewels Renee Fleming was wearing), the lack of sharpness and the very noticeable “SD lines” across the screen (the same lines you see when you project a VCR recording to a large screen).

    So far I haven’t received a response from the Met. But your comments make me think the fault is more likely with The Met’s transmission than with the theatre in Boston.

  2. Posted Sep 24, 2008 at 11:52 am by HD in Boston

    The specific theatre in Boston was Regal Cinemas in The Fenway (the only theatre in the city of Boston that has The Met’s HD performances).

    And, yes, the theatre is next to Fenway Park and a baseball game ended at the same time as the Opening Night Gala… making for a very long and crowded ride home on the subway!

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Wed Sep 24, 2008
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