Monday, October 12, 2009

Tosca at the Met at the Cinema

Quite on impulse, I went to see Tosca on Saturday, at the Arts Picture House in Cambridge.

The New York Metropolitan Opera is broadcasting its performances live to cinemas across the world.

As you'd expect, it was much better than watching on TV, but lost something intangible but very important when compared to actually being there.

Well, I have no idea really. I've never been to the Met. But it lost something when compared to being at the Coliseum, or even at the Arts Theatre.

I could tell that the performance was bloody wonderful. All three main characters were superb, the voices and music were perfect. If I'd been there I'd have been absolutely transported, and at the end I'd have been on my feet for minutes. As it was, at the end I just thought "That was jolly good. Wish I'd seen it for real."

The camera work was absolutely brilliant, meaning that I hardly noticed it at all. The cameras were always pointing exactly where you would have wanted to look. This in marked and excellent contrast to the last one of these I saw, Tristan und Isolde, where the festooning of the screen with little break-out boxes annoyed me so much that I hated the whole thing and haven't been back since.

In fact, the cameras are too good. Opera singers mainly spend their time fighting desperately for breath whilst trying to act and sing both beautifully and loudly at the same time.

This is too much for any mortal, and to show a twenty foot high close up of the face of someone who's trying to do it is a bit much. I'd rather have the more distant view that a live audience would have.

On the other hand, the sound was stupendous. Much better than actually being there, I think. It makes me wonder why there is such resistance to the idea of amplifying live opera.

I found the feeling of disconnection strange. I love the cinema, and whilst watching films I usually completely forget that it's all made up, and lose myself completely in the world of the film.

I wonder what the problem is. With the better sound and visuals, the cinema experience should actually be better than the opera house. But it isn't. I wonder if it's something simple, like missing bass frequencies. Maybe they need to talk to whatever cinema's equivalent of a nerd is.

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