Transmitting Opera Around the World

This afternoon, as I stepped into the beautiful Performing Arts Center of San Luis Obispo to catch the encore presentation of Don Giovanni, live in HD from the Met, I thought back to my first Met broadcast 4 years ago. It was only the second season these broadcasts were made available and I was in my senior year as  a vocal arts major at USC. The father of a student at the USC film school was involved in creating the technology used in the transmissions, so we were able to see the live shows for free at the USC theater. When I attended my first Met Broadcast, a beautiful and heart-wrenching portrayal of La bohème, on April 5th of 2008, I knew that the face of opera would be forever changed. No opera glasses were required and we could literally see Angela Gheorghiu’s tonsils as she sang her soaring high notes in the role of Mimi.  I looked around the theater that day at the collection of professors, music students, film students, and opera lovers: all riveted to the movie screen as we became a part of the action on stage. Many of my film student friends had never seen an opera before in their lives, and yet, they were completely hooked. No one was asleep; no one was yawning; no one was checking their watches or leaving at intermission. It was in this instant that I found a spark of hope for the future of opera. Opera was keeping up with the times by connecting to smaller communities and younger generations. Opera was growing and moving forward. Opera was staying alive.

The next year, I entered my grad school in West Virginia. A drastic change from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, West Virginia left me missing my $20 student tickets to the LA opera and the constant immersion in the operatic repertoire. Feeling quite homesick and culturally starved, I was overjoyed to find out that the local movie theater would be transmitting the Met broadcasts that year. There I was, sitting in a tiny 75-seat movie theater, getting lost in the intensity of Solome and knowing that thousands of others in the world were doing the exact same thing…. even if there were only 5 others sharing the experience in my theater’s audience.

Today, as the performance of the Met Broadcast Don Giovanni wrapped up, I gazed around the Performing Arts Center at the crowd of 315 opera-lovers: a group representing all ages, economic backgrounds, and education levels. Some were dressed to the nines in full tuxedos; some were wearing jeans and t-shirts. Yet, we all laughed together, applauded together, gasped when flames shot from the stage, and, best of all, we all couldn’t get enough. This operatic experience was creating a community, creating new opera-go’ers, and bringing people together through the arts: if only over a electronic signal. I find comfort in knowing that wherever I go, I will never be more than 60 miles away from a Met broadcast transmission… and the community that broadcast creates.

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