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Flash: Cio-Cio San Now Working in Times Square

Gelb.jpgIf there were ever any doubt that Peter Gelb, the new director of the Metropolitan Opera, had big plans to turn the venerable company into a glitzier, more populist experience, there isn’t any more. 

The New York Times reports this morning that the Met will simulcast the opening night “Madama Butterfly” gala on September 25 on the Panasonic jumbo screen in Times Square. Traffic will be closed between Broadway between 42nd and 45th Streets to make room for 650 cushioned seats and standing room for the performance, which will be blared to the large tin can that is Times Square on giant speakers.  Goodbye amplification purists; hello power chords.

The Met also plans to broadcast the performance on a large screen in the Lincoln Center Plaza. Tickets are free but you will need one.  You’ll also get a look at another Gelb innovation–the celebrity red carpet where news personality Daljit Dhaliwal will conduct Joan Rivers-style interviews with such well-known opera lovers as Goldie Hawn, Sean Connery, Al Roker, the formerly fat weather man from the Today show, and Tony Soprano.   

The news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Met will begin broadcasting live performances into movie theaters across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Gelb calls these initiatives “building bridges to the broader public.”  Color me skeptical but (snarky tone aside) I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The folks in the family circle (myself included) are beginning to look a little long in the tooth.


Comment from David Salvage
Time: September 15, 2006, 12:10 pm

Agreed. I hate to see another art-form piggy-back on the profitability of movies: I mean, what’s next? Cavadarossi drinking Coke?

But, in the end, Gelb is right. Let’s get opera to more people. Let’s not be timid about taking our product to the masses.

Let’s hope they listen.

Comment from Seth Gordon
Time: September 15, 2006, 1:20 pm

Kudos to Gelb. I’m a bit skeptical myself as to how much good it’ll do in the long run – but it certainly won’t hurt, and at least he’s trying something. And if it means product placement to make it happen (Supercuts Presents: Il Barbiere di Siviglia!) so be it.

Now, if they would do this for, say, something written by someone who was still alive

Comment from Nathan Brock
Time: September 15, 2006, 10:50 pm

Though I understand that one of the operas that they’re giving the movie theater treatment to is the new Tan Dun commission. Now, I can’t say I’m all that enthusiatic about the idea of a new Tan Dun opera, but they are giving it the same opportunity (Times Square JumboTron aside) as the other pieces in the rep this season.

Comment from Stefanie Lubkowski
Time: September 19, 2006, 2:08 pm

I work at one of the venues considering the theatrical broadcast, and I’m all for it. We’ve had some success with opera films in the last decade, and I know that I grew to love opera through watching the Met broadcasts on PBS as well as the occassional film version on TV. Plus, families and students are the largest part of free-event attendees, and that is just the demographic arts organizations need to attract. The irony to the cry of selling out is that purity requires a large purse, but doesn’t always attract a large purse.