Do you live near a cinema that shows the New York Metropolitan opera performances? They are £25 a go and worth your consideration. I saw Walküre last June in Aldeburgh and Don Giovanni at the Chelsea Curzon on October 29.
The films are advertised as HD but the sound reproduction in Suffolk was 'low' rather than 'hi-fi', loud and distorted; at Chelsea, much better, but still with some distortion – females rather shrill, males satisfactory but still so loud that some neighbours had their hands over their ears at times.
The main advantage is seeing the faces and expressions of the singers instead of the pinhead Lilliputian images if one sits at any distance from the stage. And in the cinema subtitles are legible whereas in the opera house they can be difficult to see.
This Don was a premiere of a production by our own Michael Grandage from the Donmar, sensible though not old fashioned, no surprises or horrors, no updates. Christopher Oram's set began with a multi-floored grid of room like spaces that often gave way to a full stage, same designer's handsome costumes.
The cast was good-looking and good-singing. Ottavio (Ramon Vargas) was less of a wimp than usual and his singing was pleasing. Majca Erdmann was a delightful Zerlina in every way. Marius was a convincing Don, a pity his Leporello was a head taller, Lep (Luca Pisaroni) a very fine likeable character and singer. Anna and Elvira were both very good (Marina Rebeka and Barbara Frittoli) in spite of the mikes not being kind to their voices. There seems to be at present a world shortage of real basses: Stefan Kocan's Commendatore needed more resonant low notes. Fabio Luisi's conducting was first-class.
In time it is likely that all cinemas will have good sound and then these cinema operas will be even more worthwhile than at present (mind you, I've only been to two so far). Here are some names and dates in case you want to venture: Götterdämerung – 11 February, Ernani – 25 February, Manon – 7 April, Traviata – 14 April.