Last night we watched a live HD streaming of Puccini’s La Bohème from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. We watched it at Warwick Arts Centre. I didn’t enjoy the opera very much; it turns out that I am not a big Puccini fun. That is not to say that the performers and the three different stage sets were not amazing; I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed an overall spectacle that was as close to perfection as the one last night.
The idea of watching other people watch an opera is a peculiar experience. I felt like I was stealing part of their — the Met’s physical audience’s — pleasure. At the same time I was aware that I was part of a wider audience that the opera company is trying to reach out to. Yet there was a clear distinction between the two audiences; a gap that could not be bridged. For instance, when the people at the Met applauded after an Act, those of us sitting in the stuffy cinema hall in the Midlands did not applaud, realising that we have no point of contact with the performers. It felt like eavesdropping.
On the other hand it’s amazing that the locals in one of the most deprived areas of the UK get the chance to watch something as grandiose as a Met Opera production, with world class performers, three stage sets, falling snow effects and lovely costumes.
I’m not a big opera fun. I only attended four different opera productions in my life, all of them in London, so I don’t claim to have any expert knowledge on anything opera-related. Even to me though the feeling of being part of the ‘virtual’ rather than the ‘real’ audience was considerably different and noticeable. The latter is obviously better, even if you sit at the far end of the opera house as we tend to do (it’s the only seats that we can casually afford).
That being said, I would like to attend more live opera streamings in the future, preferably in a cinema with better projector and sound equipment. It’s one of the best three-hour entertainment experiences that ten pounds can buy on a rainy Saturday afternoon.