Baseball and Opera

What do baseball and opera have in common? They are both better viewed in HD than at the ballpark or in the opera house.

I grew up on baseball and loved going to games as a kid, but that was before flat screens and High Definition TV. Now if I go to a game it is really to be part of the ritual not to “see” it. If I want to “see” the game I do it in front of my 42″ flat screen where I can see the pimples on the pitcher’s nose. But, truth to tell, I hardly watch baseball anymore. I might if Seattle had a decent team but it doesn’t, and I’ve totally lost interest.

So why do I suddenly like opera? Is it that the Mariners suckage is so devastating that I would rather see an opera? Is it that the pain associated is so much less than watching the Mariners flounder? It’s not really that simple, although I think I’d rather eat a plate full of brussel sprouts than watch the home team stumble around Safeco Field in their current incarnation. I know it sounds goofy. I know almost nothing about opera. I can name a few famous singers and I know the names of a dozen or so operas. Ignorance alone has stood in the way of my spending nearly $100 to pay for a live performance. It’s not that I haven’t liked the operas I’ve seen, but those performances were primarily lucky happenstance. When I was flying for Pan Am I managed to see Tosca performed on a lovely summer night at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and La Boheme in the wonderfully baroque opera house in Rome. I was lucky enough to hear Pavarotti in Aida at Covent Garden and later Marilynn and I saw Carmen on the Boston Commons. Still, I didn’t really know enough about opera to appreciate these opportunities. BUT NOW – I’m hooked. It’s all about High Definition broadcasts of live performances from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. They are sensational.

For $22 I go to a local Cineplex on Saturday morning, sit in a comfortable seat, and watch the world’s greatest singers perform live opera with Dolby sound from the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager, initiated the live HD performances in 2006. It was a bold strategy in audience and revenue development, and it was far from a sure thing. It has turned out to be a huge success and has increase both audience and revenue for the Met. The American opera goer is overwhelmingly old. It’s rare, even now with the HD performances to see anyone in the theater under 50. But, I think it will happen. It is mind blowing to experience on the huge screen. Each performance involves something like 20 cameras shooting simultaneously, so there are long shots, close ups, panoramic views and shots of the orchestra.

This year, the 2012-2013 season, there are 17 live performances scheduled in theaters nationwide. I’ve seen three (photos above) – The Tempest – a modern Thomas Ades adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, Otello – Verdi’s Shakespeare adaptation with Renee Fleming and Johan Botha, and L’Elisir d’Amore – by Donizetti directed by Seattle’s Bartlett Sher with Anna Netrebko in the lead role.

I wish the Mariners good luck, but for now I’d rather watch the amazing spectacle and major league talent that is the Metropolitan Opera in HD. It’s always good to find new interests. So far I’m loving this one – maybe you will too.

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