The Met in the Fox Valley

Graham Hand

Opera fans in the Fox Valley were given the opportunity Tuesday to see a production of Bellini’s opera “I Puritani,” performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York – without having to leave Appleton.
This year the Met – one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses – is broadcasting six operas to movie theaters across North America and Europe. In addition to “I Puritani,” highlights of the series include a production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and the premiŠre of a new opera by Tan Dun about the first emperor of China.
“I Puritani” was the last opera by Vincenzo Bellini, one of finest composers of the “bel canto” style of opera. This style is primarily concerned with giving the singers opportunities to sing as beautifully as possible, and only secondarily concerned with drama. “I Puritani” is no exception, and it includes some of the most beautiful melody in opera.
The production was, of course, excellent. The cast sang wonderfully, especially soprano Anna Netrebko in the lead role as Elvira. Although listening to the sound coming through the theater’s speakers didn’t have the impact of being at a live performance, it sounded good and it was easy to enjoy the beauty of the singing.
The movie theater format actually made it easier to see the stage action, because all of the singers were twenty feet tall. The experience isn’t as good as seeing opera live, but it’s the next best thing.
The major problem with this series is the cost of admission – $18 per ticket. Unfortunately, this expense makes it unlikely that the broadcasts will attract anyone who isn’t already a serious opera fan – and it will likely stop many people who are. Despite this the Met broadcasts represent a welcome opportunity to see world-class opera in Appleton.