James Levine

My week at the Metropolitan Opera

Lincoln Center - Metropolitan Opera House

The Metropolitan Opera House at night, as the audience files out of Madama Butterfly

I have just returned from New York, a trip that was based around celebrating a ‘significant’ birthday. During the 8-day stay, we took in five operas at the Metropolitan Opera House and, since I didn’t take a laptop with me, one post-trip round-up will capture thoughts on them all.

Overall, it was great to ‘live’ a different operatic experience for a week: everything about the Met is gargantuan, including (to be blunt) its own sense of self and the resulting hyperbole. In contrast, those fellow audience members with whom we chatted were reassuringly down-to-earth, and we had some great discussions, comparing notes on singers and performances across the Atlantic. And yet, from the security guards, to the rather prickly (and not particularly well-informed) backstage tour guide, to the social conventions around the front of house, it is all just slightly starchy when compared, dare I say it, to Covent Garden: more emphasis on a ‘sense of occasion’ than a night in the theatre, perhaps.  Maybe it’s the shades of all those Rockerfellers, Astors and Vanederbilts etched into the marble foyer. (more…)

The Met Live in HD: Die Walküre

This wasn’t a cinema; it was a ‘screening lounge’.  The Everyman Cinema, Hampstead (well, Belsize Park anyway) is a rather luxurious affair.  Hugely wide lounge chairs, acres of legroom, and drinks service in intervals.  In some ways perfect for 5 hours of Wagner, except I can’t quite adjust to lying back and having the opera brought up close to me.  Somehow I miss leaning on a balcony ledge peering down at it.  That may be to do with the rather artificial soundstage of the Met transmission, of which more anon. (more…)