Dueling Normas

Theater

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY OCT 6, 2017

In 2006, The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, affectionately known as The Met, sought to fundamentally change the opera demographic when it took its performances out of the traditionally stuffy opera house and into the casual environment of the movie theater. This season The Met comes to Sarasota, with a live-stream of the 2017-18 season at CineBistro Siesta Key.

Staying true to the long-standing pursuit of excellence in opera, the video techniques used to film the performances are themselves a triumph of well-choreographed teamwork. Frank Stryjewski, COO of CineBistro, says The Met is “head and shoulders above everything else” as far as the production value of its simulcasts. Furthermore, global ticket sales and revenue for the HD streams has surpassed attendance at the Lincoln Center, good news considering the cost of producing the HD simulcasts approaches a cool million. The camerawork is conducted with a dynamic mixture of intimate close-ups and sweeping panoramic shots utilizing 10 or more cameras, while the timing and framing show a sensitivity to each scripts’ pivotal moments—and this is where the simulcasts offer something that the physical theater does not, the ability to see visual details ordinarily absent from a live presentation. With such a strong product, will The Met’s screenings share the market or steal the market from smaller cities with opera houses like, say, Sarasota?

Former New York opera singer and current Sarasota Opera Director of Audience Development Sam Lowry thinks not. “We are of the opinion that the more opera anyone can get in their life, the better,” he says. Furthermore, Lowry contends that, in regard to audio, once a microphone is used to record a singer “it’s no longer a live performance.” So, where the simulcasts have an edge in the visual arena, an opera house has the edge in acoustics with its “pure, unadulterated sound,” he says. Classical live opera is the standard and the original, and it offers a more emotive experience that is distinctly human—no two live performances are the same.

Both CineBistro and Sarasota Opera will be presenting Bellini’s Norma this season, giving residents of Sarasota the opportunity to measure the value of the old and the new. CineBistro will screen Norma on October 7, Sarasota Opera presents their version March 3 of next year.

Pictured: Past production of "The Magic Flute" at The Metropolitan Opera. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera.

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