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Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera:
A Rare Roberto Devereux
Fathom Events Live in HD Presentation

Ruth J. Katz

had the good fortune this season to attend the opening gala (March 24) of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Roberto Devereux, which the august opera house had never staged before – hard to believe. The legendary Met, founded in 1880, has mounted La Bohème, the most popular opera in its repertoire, nearly 1,300 times, and yet poor Roberto Devereux has had nary an airing, at least up until this 2015-2016 season. What a frisson of excitement it generated as it swanned into the opera house's canon. (The New York Times review will give you an inkling of the buzz this production has generated – and the endless curtain calls at the conclusion of the production would attest to that exhilaration.)

a scene from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux at the Metropolitan Opera
A scene from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Roberto Devereux is one of the three operas that are regarded as the Tudor Queens trilogy, along with its cousins Maria Stuarda and Anna Bolena, all from the cornucopic pen of Gaetano Donizetti. Additionally, it was a momentous staging because it marked another first: The Illinois-bred soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sang all three queens in one season – all to raves. It was a staggeringly gorgeous production with a lush set by the Glaswegian director Sir David McVicar and with costumes that will take your breath away.

Sondra Radvanovsky and Matthew Polenzani in a scene from Roberto Devereux
Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta and Matthew Polenzani in the title role of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

If you are feeling green with envy, do not fret: This is a production that you can still see at the opera house (through mid-April)...but even better news, for everyone outside the greater Metropolitan area and virtually all around the world, you can experience it on April 16, Live in HD, in more than 2,000 movie houses in some 70 countries. Additionally, if you miss the April 16th performance, here in the States, you may be fortunate enough to catch the encore the following week on Wednesday. There is, also, a Live in HD Summer Encore program, soon to be announced.

Elina Garanca as Sara in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux
Elīna Garanča as Sara in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Fathom Events is the U.S. partner for the Metropolitan Opera series and has been screening the Emmy- and Peabody-Award-winning series, The Met Live in HD, on Saturday afternoons for ten years now. Experiencing an opera on the big screen is a way to soak up the performance in a close-up, personal way – another dimension of an opera presentation from what is arguably one of the greatest opera houses in the world. Some may contend an HD performance is no substitute for being physically in the opera house; true, but it is assuredly counterpoint to a live viewing. And if you live in Timbuktu, or you are traveling, then this is as good as it gets. And in many ways, the Live in HD performances are more educational and thought-provoking. "The Metropolitan Opera continues to astound and entertain audiences around the world thanks to their Live in HD series," observed Kymberli Frueh, Fathom Events vice president of programming. "This series continues to be a cornerstone of Fathom's programming and we are thrilled to be celebrating ten years with another fantastic season."

Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Duke of Nottingham in Roberto Devereux
Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta and Mariusz Kwiecień as the Duke of Nottingham in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Fathom Events, a recognized leader in the alternative entertainment industry, has been bringing one-of-a-kind cinematic experiences to a wide audience for years and offers a diverse group of presentations in addition to the opera. The screenings are high-quality, affordable, and world-class: Sporting events, theatrical presentations (Broadway and the West End, anybody?), socially relevant documentaries, classic films, pre-recorded concerts, comedy acts, and original programming featuring the biggest names in radio and television, just to highlight the tip of the proverbial iceberg. (Some years ago, I was traveling in Scotland, and by happenstance I managed to find a movie theater to see a presentation of a Met opera, much to my delight!)

Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta and Matthew Polenzani in the title role of Roberto Devereux
Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta and Matthew Polenzani in the title role of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

The Met's magical staging makes the productions highly intimate, with skillful camera work (the Met uses something like eight cameras strategically placed in the house), creating performances as immediate as possible. Clearly, audiences all over the world must be in agreement, as the Met has garnered $18 million in ticket sales in the first nine years of the Live in HD program. "The HD transmissions stimulate opera lovers, and they are a catalyst for the singers, too," noted Met general manager Peter Gelb. "Knowing that a global audience is watching and listening, our opera stars are inspired to give their greatest performances." Since Live in HD began, the Met through Fathom Events has presented 89 live performances or operas, ranging from classics by popular luminaries like Verdi and Puccini to less well-known operas from Bellini and Berlioz to more modern-day operas from Thomas Adès and Philip Glass.

a scene from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux.
A scene from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

So, if you are not in New York City between now and the end of the Roberto Devereux run, you should make a date with your local cinema – whether in America or Australia, or anywhere else on the globe – to view the Live in HD performance. Or, listen to the opera on April 11, when the performance will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Channel 74; and the April 4th performances will also be streamed on the Met's web site, www.metopera.org.

Elina Garanca as Sara in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux
Elīna Garanča as Sara in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

However, the smart money is on Fathom's April 16th Live in HD performance (and simultaneously, that broadcast is also available on the radio, broadcast live on the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network). The broadcast will be hosted by the beloved soprano Deborah Voigt, who presides over the highly acclaimed intermission features, as well. These entr'acte, behind-the-scenes segments are a favorite of the Live in HD presentations. Viewers get treated via the live cameras to the scene changes back stage, to informal interviews with the some of the cast, and fascinating features, sometimes with the conductor; or with Donald Palumbo, the director of the Met's outstanding chorus; or perhaps with artists in the scenic department or costume shop. It is a rare, sneak peek at the Behemoth machinery of the Met.

Mariusz Kwiecien as the Duke of Nottingham and Matthew Polenzani as Roberto Devereux
Mariusz Kwiecień as the Duke of Nottingham and Matthew Polenzani in the title role in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

To locate a theater near you, and to purchase tickets, use the Fathom Web site, which can pinpoint a nearby location and allow you to purchase tickets. As opera singers say to each other – instead of the good-luck "break a leg" that is proffered among actors in theater – "in bocca al lupo," meaning "in the mouth of the wolf"... or good luck! And watch this space for more info about the Live in HD performances for the Summer Encore series or next year's international Live in HD roster.

(And just for the record, although I have rightfully touted the brilliance of the Roberto Devereux production here, it's worth pointing out that there are still a few other Live in HD productions from the Met: On April 2nd, the highly praised Anthony Minghella staging of Puccini's Madama Butterfly will be screened with soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role and tenor Roberto Alagna as the unfaithful Pinkerton. On April 30th, Strauss's Elektra is on the docket, featuring the extraordinary Wagnerian soprano Nina Stemme in the title role, the legendary Waltraud Meier as Elektra's fearsome mother, and bass-baritone Eric Owens as Elektra's brother, Orest; the production is conducted by the renowned Esa-Pekka Salonen. Performances of each begin at 12:55 ET.)

©2016 Ruth J. Katz; All Rights Reserved


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