As you’re probably aware, New York’s Metropolitan Opera has been showing live broadcasts of their performances in cinemas around the world. The newish GM of The Met, Peter Gelb, launched this audacious program in 2006, and it’s been wildly successful. According to Wikipedia, by the end of the 2007 season, nearly a million people attended the screenings, generating $13.3 million from North America and $5 million from overseas. Apparently they plan to expand by another 30% for the 2008-2009 season.
I’m not a fan of opera, but the screenings are reportedly a joy to watch. From Peter Conrad in The Observer:
I remained sceptical until I saw the relay of The Barber of Seville in March. Bartlett Sher’s production of Rossini’s opera is a whirligig of sliding walls and speeding carts; characters scramble up ladders or vault on to sofas, juggle oranges and sashay through impromptu flamenco routines.
Watching it in the cinema was like having not just the best seat at the Met but all the best seats simultaneously. Thirteen cameras alternated between the stage, the orchestra pit, the wings and even the fly tower, so my eyes felt as if they were attached to irrepressible pogo sticks.
A while back, I watched an interview with Gelb in which he discusses The Met’s declining audience, and the new life his idea has brought to the company (and, I suspect, the genre as a whole).
Even in Victoria
I was reminded of The Met’s innovation yesterday when we visited our local multiplex. We saw “Burn After Reading”, which is a good, not great, Coen brothers film (and it features one of Brad Pitt’s worst performances).
On the way in, I noticed this sign advertising The Met’s simulcast season. The season runs through next May, and all but two shows are sold out:
In any case, The Met’s idea seems like a win for everybody: the opera company, the movie theatres (another medium in decline) and opera fans who can’t afford to go to New York.