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Grand Opera, Little Screen

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 09:50 AM

I grew up in a house that had virtually no classical music in it.  Tickets to the Philharmonic or the Met were out of reach.  But PBS (Channel 13 here in NY) occasionally aired operas from the Met, so when I decided as a teen to try to learn something about classical music I tuned in one evening to a broadcast of Tannhäuser.  

I knew Richard Wagner’s name from the “Ride of the Valkyries,” and knew about (but had never heard) his so-called Ring cycle because, as a teenaged American boy, I had duly read the Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy and had done a little research into similar stories.  But I knew nothing about opera, so I was unprepared for the moment when the guy playing Tannhäuser started singing his song to the evening star.  There, sitting in front of my family’s smaller, black-and-white TV (there was probably a Mets game on the main set in the living room), I had one of those moments where you can’t even draw breath. 

I’m sure if I’d been in the opera house, the experience could not have been any more magical.  And when, as an adult, I finally did get to go to the Met, the first opera I saw was Tannhäuser.  It was a beautiful production.  But I don’t remember Tannhäuser’s aria from that night.  What I do remember is that grainy picture and tinny sound from the TV.

I understand some people have reservations about broadcasts, and how they might keep people from going to the actual concert halls.  Watching a Yankees game is so easy on TV that I’m hardly even tempted to deal with going to the ballpark itself.  But I still love the team and follow it closely.  And it’s the same with the Met’s decision to broadcast its operas to movie theaters, or for orchestras to offer their concerts to TV or movie theaters as well.  If the object is to reach potential fans and turn them into real, lifelong fans, I’m here to tell you that the right way to do that is any way you can

Do you like the idea of Met operas in movie theaters and other classical simulcasts?  Leave a comment.  

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