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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Festival Preview: The Met Live in HD Summer Festival 2018

The Met Live in HD festival Marx the spot with ten operas and a classic screwball comedy.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
That ain't peanuts: Groucho is open for business in a scene from A Night at the Opera
© 1935 Universal Pictures.
As a celebration of opera (and an opportunity for marketing the Metropolitan Opera to the city at large) you can't beat the Met's Live in HD Film Festival. This eleven-evening free event has become a hallmark of the Peter Gelb era at the Met. It allows the revisiting of old favorites or the experience, for the bold opera novice, of something entierey new.



This year's festival starts August 24 with the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera in which the madcap brothers gleefully destroy the prima of a stuffy staging of Il Trovatore. This is followed by a slate of ten different operas, with one each night, climaxing on Labor Day night with a broadcast of Madama Butterfly in the staging that started the Gelb era at the Met.
For eleven nights, Lincoln Center Plaza will fill with a mix of opera devotees, well-informed tourists and curious onlookers all watching the fruits of the Met's labors shown on a massive screen mounted on the balcony of the 50-year-old opera house.

This year's festival features a diverse and challenging slate with important 20th century German works taking their place proudly along side favorites by Rossini, Puccini and Verdi.

Here's the schedule:

The Marx Brothers: A Night at the Opera (Aug. 24 8pm)
"And now on with the opera! Let joy be unconfined! Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the parlor."

Gounod: Roméo et Juliette (Aug. 25 8pm)
Two households and a new production by Bart Sher emphasizes colorful costumes in fair Verona.

Bellini: Norma (Aug. 26 7:45pm)
Last season's opening salvo: this handsome new production tells the tale of the self-sacrifice of a Druidic priestess in Roman-era Gaul.

Strauss: Elektra (Aug. 27 8pm)
Christine Goerke burns down the House of Atreus in this Patrice Chéreau staging of Strauss' Greek tragedy. Performed without intermission.

Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia(Aug. 28 8pm)
This sunny audience favorite features a quick witted barber's attempts to help a nobleman marry a girl in a gilded cage. Yes, you're next.

Berg: Lulu (Aug. 29 7:30pm)
This demanding work is the story of a femme fatale who (unintentionally, for the most part) kills every man and woman who falls in love with her. Simply irresistable, as is this stark, unsettling staging by William Kentridge.

Dvorak: Rusalka (Aug. 30 7:45pm)
Sumptuous music and lush vocal writing are at the core of Rusalka, the story of a water sprite whose love for a handsome prince brings him to a very wet end.

Donizetti: L'elisir d'Amore (Aug. 31 8pm)
Boy meets girl. Girl ignores boy. Boy gets schnocked on a bottle of cheap wine. Girl decides boy isn't so bad after all.

Verdi: Un ballo in Maschera (Sept 1 8pm)
A love triangle leads to political assassination and tragedy in a surreal Bergman-esque production set at the Swedish royal court.

Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (Sept 2 7:15pm)
Another love triangle with much less fatal consequences: Strauss' heady comedy of waltzes, romance and drinkable chocolate is the perfect summer cooler.

Puccini: Madama Butterfly (Sept. 3 8pm)
The festival ends with Anthony Minghella's handsome production of this Japanese tragedy: when West marries East and then dumps her for another girl, only death can follow. 

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.