The Met: Live In HD – Part 5

The Met: Live in HD   Part 5 Don Pasquale George Fleeton Audiences for these occasional live transmissions, from the Metropolitan Opera in New York into about 1,800 cinemas worldwide, are definitely growing in Ireland where 18 cinemas (that’s 1% of the potential audience) are ‘plugged in’. Responsibility for managing this service is retained by Opera Ireland in Dublin and its Chief Executive, Niall Doyle: Only one cinema in Northern Ireland however continues to take the package on a Saturday night, the Odyssey in Belfast: And such has been the success of these screenings in High Definition (HD) – for example when I saw Verdi’s Don Carlo last month in Dundrum, Dublin, the cinema was booked out – that Europe’s  leading opera houses, in Milan, Berlin, Vienna, Paris and London are gearing up their productions to follow suit. I have previously referred to this phenomenon – designed to give a shot of energy to the opera art from –  in reviews posted here on November 4th, 18th, 30th and December 10th last year. Meanwhile in parallel with this initiative, the New York Met has been relaying live radio broadcasts of their productions since 1931. And these can be picked up here on BBC Radio 3 and on RTE’s Lyric FM. So picking up where I left off reviewing these Met: Live in HD productions, Donizetti’s opera Don Pasquale was seen on November 13th in Belfast. Donizetti had written 62 operas before this commission from the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris, early in 1843. It turned out to be his last comedy, and his third last work, before his death in 1848. Don Pasquale (which can be heard one final time on radio on February 19th) is one of his very best (the others being L’elisir d’amore, Maria Stuarda and Lucia di Lammermoor – which, by the way, we can see live in HD on March 19th: James Levine, Met Opera’s Music Director for 40 years, now conducts from a seated position, because of substantial problems with his back, and he takes his bow at the end, with a walking stick or on the soprano’s arm, just a step out from the edge of the curtain. When I last saw him conducting the Met Orchestra, in Carnegie Hall on December 2009, he was clearly in some pain. The stars of this Don Pasquale were Levine, clearly relishing the lightness of the piece after the weight of conducting Das Rheingold, the opera which opened the Met’s 2010-11 season, and the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in the role of Norina, returning to a part which had so successfully launched her career in New York. All of Donizetti’s great sense of theatre and his thorough understanding of plot and character were celebrated in this superb production, with lots of fioriture for the soprano and bold, declamatory strokes for the three male singers – the whole affair full of zest, ingenuity and wit, as the rich old bachelor is conned into apparently marrying a nice shy girl who then makes his life hell until she gets what she wants. *   Reviews of Verdi’s Don Carlo and Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West will follow here shortly. Meanwhile, something very special is happening in terms of fully staged opera in Downpatrick, for on February 24th at 8.00pm, Opera Theatre Company’s touring production of Don Pasquale turns up in the Great Hall of the Downshire Hospital on the Ardglass Road, its only performance in Northern Ireland. The box office is now open, in the St Patrick Centre, where the number is 028 4461 2233, and tickets cost £15: George Fleeton is presenting Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the QFT on January 22nd, The Big Sleep also in the QFT on February 7th and Nosferatu in the Ulster Hall on February 8th. His film studies class in Queen’s University continues from January 24th.]]>