Sunday, November 11, 2012

Popcorn at the Opera

As the art world continues to search for its place in today’s high speed society, the Met has taken some important steps in keeping up the pace.  Nine years ago it launched a program called The Met: Live in HD.  This performance series, which involves broadcasting live opera performances in 54 different countries, hopes to reach out to new audiences who may not have the opportunity to hear opera otherwise.  
          Of course, the two experiences are widely different from each other, but as it turns out, both offer their own set of advantages.  A live performance where one is sitting in the hall, allows for the audience member to pick and choose what to look at, to observe, to listen to and notice.  In the HD performances, the cameramen make those choices for the public.  However, the resulting effect remains cohesive, as hours of preparation go into the filming of these performances, and each crew member is acutely aware of all the details of the performance.  As a bonus to those sitting in the audience of an HD performance, interviews with the stars of the show are broadcast during intermission and a behind the scenes look allows the public to peek into a world which would otherwise be closed off.
Once again, the lines between high and low art are blurred as a genre which has been long been considered the epitome of elitist art has been made widely available to the masses.  However, I wonder if the Met has gotten what it wants.  Has it truly reached new audiences?  Or has it simply expanded its pre-existing public?  In France, newspapers are advertising The Tempest, which will be shown live in about a hundred different theaters this Friday.  But how many of these movie goers haven’t seen or heard opera before?  Perhaps most of them, or perhaps none at all.  
          While I applaud the Met’s work and I believe it is a huge step forward to give the opportunity to all to hear and see one of the greatest opera companies in the world, I wonder if the Met is truly directing its efforts the way that it should.  Where are these broadcasts advertised?  I realize everything is a question of money, but simply advertising on their own website isn’t going to open the doors to newcomers.  I think it’s a wonderful thing that these broadcasts are offered in movie theaters, as this maintains a fragment of the feeling involved in actually going to the opera, but I can’t help but wonder what a huge difference it might make if they made trailers the way they do for regular movies.  From my optimistic point of view, advertising to the general public in a way that is familiar to them would draw in new and excited crowds.  People would probably enjoy the familiarity of the movie theater, which is less intimidating than the opera house... and after all, what’s wrong with watching Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro while munching on some popcorn? 

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