Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fathom of the Opera

It is not news to anyone that going to the movies these days involves overpriced concessions and having to watch commercials on a theater size screen. One of the ubiquitous campaigns in theaters is for Fathom Events. A company that broadcasts live events in HD to movie theaters all over the country. I've always been curious about these broadcasts. The last time I saw one of these Fathom commercials was for The Metropolitan Opera House in New York and a series of opera broadcasts. One of which was for Puccini's Turandot with which I was familiar thanks to the viral youtube video of Paul Potts on Brittain's Most Talented where he sings the famous aria, Nessun Dorma from Turandot. I've always wanted to attend the opera and specially to see Turandot. Here were two good reasons for me to try, and I am not disappointed in the least.

The broadcast was plagued by with partial and full signal loss. Most of the time only the sound would cut out, specially during the first and third acts. During the second act the sound did not cut out, but the whole signal was lost more than once. And both picture and sound were lost a few times in the third act. While this was very annoying, it did not take from the brilliantly produced show.

This production of Turandot was incredible. The budget for costumes and sets must have been a fortune and the stage crew were equally as impressive. I know this, because the broadcast takes you back stage to watch the crew striking and resetting. The thing I found awkward with this backstage view besides the odd cast interviews is that the illusion the theater is lost a little bit. Sometimes I don't want to see the man behind the curtain. Damn that Toto!

Opera performers are not humble.
This was my first full blown opera and one thing I did not like was the cast coming out after each act for a curtain call. Yes, just as if you just watched the show end three times. I have been to the theater a few times and this is standard fair for the END of the show, not intermission. How needy are these opera players?
Though I have no point of reference to how good their voices are (I found all of them very pleasant) the acting by the title character, played by Maria Guleghina was just horrendous. I've seen more genuine emotions on infomercials. These broadcasts could be a detriment to the careers of some, since they take you in for close-ups, angles and swooping shots of the stage. Performances that could be masked by the static nature of the theater but can not be so easily hidden in a live broadcast. I realize that it would be difficult to cast the part of what is supposed to be an angelic beauty that is also an amazing soprano, but Miss Guleghina looked more like a lighter version of Camryn Manheim,  lighter more for the lack of earrings than for her abundant size. That is a minor gripe, since the bulk of the story follows Calaf and her singing was beautiful to hear. The rest of the cast was spot on, specially Marcello Giordani, who plays The Unknown Prince (Calaf). He is brilliant throughout and his performance of Nessun Dorma brought chills to my spine and earned the applause from the remote audience I was part of. The story is sometimes tragic, uplifting and surprisingly sometimes, very funny. The three ministers (Ping, Pang and Pong) are the comic relief and they deliver - the scene where they try to talk Calaf out of accepting Turandot's challenge is extremely humorous.

The show was 3:45 minutes long, due to the two twenty minute intermissions between acts, the time flew by however. Even with the broadcasting issues, I would recommend anyone who wants to attend the opera in more affordable and informal setting to look up one of these Fathom broadcasts. I am chalking up the technical problems to a bad day and I am giving Fathom Events a second chance in January when I go see Carmen.

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