Anna Bolena – MetHD broadcast

Today’s Metropolitan Opera “Live in HD” broadcast was Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. I was not overly impressed although whether this was a result of issues associated with the broadcast or what was happening in the house I’m not entirely sure. One issue was that, again, the cinema was forcing its sound system well past the point at which it could consistently and accurately reproduce music. It may be OK for car chases and explosions but they need to throttle the volume back for the opera broadcasts. I’m guessing that they could drop the sound 6dB and still be louder than it would sound in the house. Driving the speakers and amps at 25% of the pressure level they are currently flogging them at would surely reduce the harmonic distortion. This was particularly an issue because this was very “heavy” Donizetti. I don’t know the work well enough to know whether it has to be done this way but the Met cast large voices in almost all the major roles and Marco Amiliato in the pit seemed to be demanding a very loud and strident sound from the orchestra. It was quite dramatic but emphatically not bel canto; more like forte shouto really. The only singer who sounded idiomatic to me was Tamara Mumford as the page, Smeaton. It did get better after the interval and the big duet between Anna (Anna Netrebko) and Giovanna Seymour (Ekaterina Gubanova) was really quite affecting. Also as far as I could tell Netrebko was singing really well in the “mad scene” (which really isn’t all that mad as these things go) but unfortunately the person in the seat behind me was having extremely audible “gastric distress” and both the lemur and I were having the hardest time not dissolving into giggles during perhaps the most solemn part of the opera. And I thought the coughing at the Four Seasons Centre was bad.

The staging was literal and dull. I expected rather more from David McVicar. At the very least he’s usually good for some sex and violence. All we got here was Enrico (Ildar Abdrazakov) copping a feel of Giovanna in the first act and a bloody Smeaton who looked like he’d had a run in with Dick Cheney in the second. We even got gratuitous wolfhounds in the hunting scene. Has the Met negotiated a quota with Animals Equity? If so, we demand more wombats and platypuses rather than type casting dogs and horses.(1) The lighting was really dark much of the time which may have been effective in the house but was problematic on the cinecast. Digital video cameras respond to low light levels by amplifying what “signal” they are getting to produce a grainy, ghosting picture so, far from getting a consistent HD picture, it was fluctuating from crystal clear to what could have come from an old VHS tape.

From the applause in New York I got the impression the audience in the house were lapping this up. I felt more like I’d just spent four hours in a canning factory without ear protectors.

(1)Anybody who gets this reference wins a small, virtual prize for extreme cleverness.

4 thoughts on “Anna Bolena – MetHD broadcast

  1. With respect to quality obviously you missed the announcement at the beginning of the performance addressing the potential effect of solar flares on the quality of the broadcast on the east coast. Fortunately I was watching it from Michigan and we were not affected.

    WIth respect to volume, change theaters and change seats if another occupant has gastric issues.

    I saw the same opera as you and did not have the same response. The opera was a little long but the singers with the exception of Giovanna Seymor were wonderful in everyway.

    If you see the reviews of the opening night, no one seems to want to give Netrebko a break,
    They continue to compare her to Callas, whose version of the opera is shorter, in addition there was no opera acting in those days just gesturing. I for one am glad opera has evolved into a multifaceted media. I will spot some missed notes in exchange for a good performance.

    As for her going out of character when she received a standing ovation on opening night after the mad sceen, both Pavarotti and Juan Diego Flores went out of character when they got their encore in la Fille du regiment.

    I think this was an excellent production by the met. The only thing it lacked was Garanca as Jane Seymor who had to bow out due to her pregancy.

  2. I didn’t miss the sunspot announcement but I don’t think that was the issue. In fact the sound was better during the overture and the first scene than later on in the first act. I should try another theatre sometime though since I’m watching the broadcasts in what is supposed to be one of the best cinemas in Toronto I’m not optimistic. Maybe I’m spoiled by listening to live performances in the great acoustics of the Four Seasons Centre. Also I’m not really sure how one could politely change seats during a major aria in an almost full theatre. I also know from friends that said gastric issues could be heard from many rows away!

    I’m certainly not one of the Netrebko detractors. I like her singing quite a lot though I would question whether this was really a good role for her. I’m certainly with you on the “multi faceted experience” though I’m not sure I’d put this Anna Bolena in that category. I thought the staging quite dull and conventional and certainly not in the same class as productions I’ve seen recently such as Christopher Alden’s Rigoletto or Robert Carsen’s Iphigenia in Tauris. I find even good singing and acting somewhat unsatisfying if the production has nothing to say.

    Thanks for commenting. I’d rather have honest disagreement than silence any day

  3. Pingback: Babes in bodices | operaramblings

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