This is not a review of “Met at the Movies” – 1/12 and 1/13 Macbeth – this is a personal account, a testimony, if you will. To read some reviews, scroll all the way to the bottom.
“Met at the Movies” became “Met to the Masses” this weekend around the country (and the globe) with the HD Broadcast of Verdi’s Macbeth – there is no Macbeth like white middle class suburb huge-movie-theater Macbeth. I shall begin with major complaints: please, dear marketing department at the Met, please stop this patronizing and utterly idiotic campaign of “Met to the Masses”! “Masses” are not going to go to the opera because it is expensive and absolutely counter-intuitive… Wait, did I just speak for the masses? My bad, masses. Seriously, I realize that Met wants to bring the high art to the masses, but if it really cared about such artistic “enlightenment” it would broadcast its operas for free. Opera is not going to save anyone from unemployment or poverty or lack of health insurance. Its only chance is to be the opium for the people, but that particular role is already played by TV, sports, alcohol, actual opium, and pies…
Second complaint: stop showing me workmen mopping floors, collecting garbage with a plastic bag, pushing decorations around and generally huffing and puffing backstage between acts! Interviews with singers? Maybe. Quiet shots of the audience? Yes! But please no more “behind the scenes” footage – opera is a superficial enough artform, I don’t need to be reminded every act that not only do people not sing in regular life (or die with such exciting frequency), but also all of this magic that I witness from the orchestra is created by a bunch of sweaty overweight stage hands and is guided by a creepy jar-of-candy-next-to-the-mixing-board dude who says mysterious things like: “Ok, kill the maestro now… Do we… Do we have 54922 like we did yesterday? No? Ok, now move to 833.” Seriously!
Ok then, to the opera. Macbeth was sung by a Serbian baritone Željko Lučić, not Lado Ataneli who was, as I understand, originally scheduled for the performance. Lady Macbeth was a Russian soprano – speaking of Russian sopranos, here’s a fresh entry in the Netrebko personality cult – Maria Guleghina who, I thought, sang quite beautifully, even if she was not much of an actress – I mean I find it difficult to evaluate opera singers’ acting abilities, but I thought she could have done a better job with her complex character, but this is opera, so voice is more important – her sleepwalking going-crazy scene was rather stiff, I always imagine that people would go crazy with a bit more excitement and agitation… But this could be, partly, Verdi/Piave libretto – there is not much in terms of character development opportunities there. In that sense, later Verdi of Don Carlo or Otello is, in my view, much superior.
Now the production was very strange – I have seen some strange productions and I think there should certainly be more experimentation and daring in this particular area of operatic art, but this one was just awkward and confusing as to the actual meaning of all the various soldiers’ uniforms and actions. I thought it was very confusing at times to figure out who is who, even though I know the story quite well and saw other attempts to stage it – especially the final scene (first image below)…
And, as usual, some fresh reviews/mentions (I’ll add more as they come out):
Watching a performance of the Metropolitan Opera on a 40-foot screen in a concert hall is to being in the opera house as watching the Giants on TV is to being at the Meadowlands, without instant replay. Roving cameras take you up close and personal, offering views backstage and shots of the performers that operagoers never see. Well-placed microphones and surround-sound guarantee that the performance you hear never varies in strength as the singers move about the stage. The rest is here.
Since becoming General Manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera in August 2006, Peter Gelb has busily promoted a slate of new ideas aimed at revitalising the marketing and presentation of opera. One of his most successful initiatives to date is an extension of the house’s long tradition of live Saturday matinee radio broadcasts (which can still be heard on Radio 3) into transmission via satellite into cinemas, using high-definition picture and sound. The rest is here.
The NYTimes review of the premiere (10/24/2007) on the same production: “There was much news at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night. For the first time in nearly 20 years the company presented Verdi’s breakthrough early masterpiece, ”Macbeth,” in a stylistically eclectic, grimly effective and, at times, intriguingly playful production by the English director Adrian Noble, making his Met debut. As Macbeth, the baritone Zeljko Lucic, little known to Met audiences, gave an honorable and affecting performance of an intimidating role.” The rest is here.
La Scena Musicale Review: Last October, the Met unveiled a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth to rather mixed reviews. Audience and critics praised the strong musical values, but the modern production didn’t sit well with the more tradition-bound segment of the Met audience. Yesterday, the Met at the Movies audience got to decide for themselves. Once again, I saw the show at Sheppard Grande. I am not sure if everything was sold out, but the crowd appeared to be larger than the New Year’s Day Hansel und Gretel. As a bonus, the new concessions with a more upscale menu opened just in time for the occasion. Judging by the huge line, it was more appealing to the mature opera audience than pop corn and soft drinks. The rest is here.
Boston Herald: Even opera fans need a miracle once in a while. As I enter New York’s Metropolitan Opera live-via-satellite broadcast of Verdi’s “Macbeth” at Boston’s Regal Fenway Stadium movie theater Saturday, I’m waylaid by a smartly dressed, middle-aged woman. “Are you going to the opera?” she asks. The rest is here.