Opera At The Movies: Too Close For Comfort?

The Met's Peter Gelb recently took time to explain the presence of film cameras at some of their live performances and what it means for the acting.

boris met movies

Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Marina and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Grigory in Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov."

The Met’s general manager Peter Gelb wrote an article for the New York Times on March 25.  He addressed the concerns of some that the Live in HD series interferes with the quality of the performances for those in attendance at Lincoln Center.

Only after productions have opened do we consider relatively minor adjustments to lighting, makeup and costumes for our Live in HD presentations. … But the popularity of these programs doesn’t mean we have to hijack the staging or sacrifice our theatrical values in exchange. There is no Faustian bargain involved here.

This brings up an important trend in the current world of opera: acting.

All kidding aside, opera singers haven’t had the best reputation for stellar acting. But Gelb says this is changing, noting Marcello Giordani’s 2006 appearance as Pinkerton in Verdi’s “Madam Butterfly.”

Although Marcello welcomed the finely tuned direction, not all singers are willing to accept the challenge of new interpretations of roles they have been singing for years, preferring instead to unpack their stock gestures, which they carry from theater to theater along with their travel clothes. Those are the singers who today are finding it more difficult to obtain engagements.

Take a look at this video from last season’s broadcast of “Carmen” and tell us what you think.  Is film interfering with the art of operatic acting or are modern audiences just more demanding?

External Links

Read Peter Gelb’s article Theatrical Nuance on a Grand Scale at the New York Times.

David Wood

Originally from Leavenworth, Kansas, David Wood moved to Bloomington in 2005. He received his Bachelor of Music from Kansas State University, and his Master of Music from the University of North Texas. He studied ensemble direction at the Jacobs School of Music's Early Music Institute and joined WFIU in 2006 as an announcer. In 2008 he became WFIU's Music Director and also served as Art Bureau Chief from 2008-2013. David’s interests include Irish music and language (particularly traditional singing), music and religion, running, the outdoors, and, of course, classical music!

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