Will the biggest of all art forms, grand opera, survive the pandemic? Will die-hard Durango fans ever gather again Saturday mornings at Fort Lewis College for The MET Live in HD?
As of last week, The Met canceled its entire 2020-21 season at Lincoln Center in New York City. The closure included a stellar lineup of streamed performances in the popular MET Live in HD.
In the interim, the company has taken bold steps to stay connected to its fans, and that includes Durango opera nuts. For more than a decade, we have huddled together most Saturday mornings in a darkened movie room at the college. We see a matinee performance livestreamed to us in rural Colorado.
Well, that is gone, but every night through the Met’s general website, encore productions from The MET Live in HD stream. And it’s free. See the sidebar for operas this week and next. If you want the full schedule, it comes out in three-week packages, which MET organizers bundle according to composers. Last week belonged to Puccini. Now, it’s all Mozart. Next up is that overbearing German composer – Wagner. Cut-glass Donizetti will follow.
Streaming daily at 5:30 p.m., the operas range from new productions like George Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” to the hot, 2011 version of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
Favorites such as “Butterfly,” “Bohème” and “Tosca” fill the slots. But look for operas you’ve never seen. For me, that included a lavish 2008 production of Berlioz’s “La Damnation de Faust.” It had a huge set with ominous film projections to underscore Faust’s downfall – and a Mephistopheles in a red leather suit.
Puccini’s only operetta, “La Rondine” (“The Swallow”), which I’ve never seen, turned out to be a frothy dollop of whipped cream served over fairy-tale gingerbread on Art Deco plates. Set in 1920, the MET’s sumptuous production glammed up Puccini’s retelling of famous romantic tragedies like his own “Traviata” or “Bohème.” Magda, the heroine, doesn’t die of consumption; she returns to her aging sugar daddy, cigar in hand, who again willingly supports her extravagant habits. The composer initially railed at the candy-coated commission, but, like Magda, he, too was for sale.
The MET’s high-quality broadcast standards include striking panoramas and dazzling closeups. A host sets everything in motion, but intermission interviews have been excluded. Puccini’s operetta ran a scant 90 minutes without any intermission.
If free nightly performances weren’t enough, the MET also offers recitals by some of its most compelling singers. The recital series can be accessed separately at MET Stars Live in Concert. Tickets are $20 online. Signing in is easy with a credit card or through PayPal. The MET reminds you as recital day approaches, and you can rewatch the event for a limited time thereafter.
A caution: The next two recitals have been rescheduled because of illness and hospitalization. Soprano Anna Netrebko will now perform live on Jan. 23, 2021. Sondra Radvanovsky and Piotr Beczala’s dual recital has been rescheduled for Feb. 6, 2021. The website makes the program available. You can print it out before the recital. All the other recitals appear to keep to original schedules.
Check out metopera.org/metstars for the recital series.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.