Over the years I have listened to portions of various operas on the radio or watched them on television, and while I appreciated the artistry involved, I never felt the pull. To me, opera equals pageantry and over-the-top emotion, either dramatic or comedic, and needs to be seen as a whole. So, I decided that if I ever had the chance to see a production in person, I would take it.
The chance came back in January, when I had the opportunity to join a group attending the Metropolitan Opera HD Live broadcast of Tosca at a local movie theater. “Live” may be a relative term in this case, but there are advantages to watching a performance on the large screen where every seat is essentially in the front row. The viewer gets the chance to see all the work that goes into the performance as the HD broadcast offers interviews with singers and production staff such as set and costume designers, and conducts behind-the-curtain tours of the backstage area and broadcast booth.
Given various revelations in the news over the last months, Tosca seemed more topical than a tragic opera written in 1899 might normally be. The villain, Scarpia, imprisons Cavaradossi, Tosca’s lover, then offers to free him if Tosca transfers her affections to him. I had never heard any of the primary singers before—Sonya Yoncheva/Tosca, Vittorio Grigolo/Cavaradossi, or Željko Lucic/Scarpia—but I thought they were marvelous, and the Met audience seemed to agree given the applause at various points during and at the end of the performance.
I enjoyed everything about Tosca. The sets and costumes, designed by John MacFarlane, were stunning. Facades and interiors of actual Roman buildings, such as the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, were reproduced, and if I recall correctly, it was MacFarlane who told the story of a costumer who told him that they put so much into pieces that would never be seen. But now with HD broadcast, details of costumes and scenery that used to be hidden from view are visible to and can be admired by all.
One of my goals in the coming year is to attend a performance of the Lyric Opera in Chicago. But if I can, I will likely attend another Metropolitan Opera HD Live as well. If you enjoy opera, you may enjoy attending a broadcast at a theater near you.