Presented in high definition in at least 15 Bay Area movie theaters, including two in San Francisco, the festival begins Wednesday with Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and continues with Puccini’s “La Rondine”; Verdi’s “Otello”; and a curious modern pastiche of music by Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Rameau and others known as “The Enchanted Island.”
Performances include ever-popular interviews and features that handily fill the space during the Met’s otherwise interminable 40-minute intermissions.
Each encore broadcast includes eye-catching visuals.
Michael Mayer’s production for “Rigoletto,” for example, teleports Verdi’s dark tale to 1960s Las Vegas, where the Duke (Piotr Beczala) becomes a popular entertainer and casino owner. The hunchback court jester Rigoletto (Željko Lucic) is now a comedian, and his innocent daughter, Gilda (Diana Damrau) — is anyone truly innocent in Las Vegas? — probably takes the pill just in case. It’s rumored that Met General Director Peter Gelb makes a brief appearance, hawking on the Strip.
Since the Met HD opera broadcasts began in 2006, nearly 14 million tickets have been sold worldwide, in effect, quadrupling the Metropolitan Opera’s paying audience. The past season alone offered 10 broadcasts, which were seen by more than 2.5 million people in more than 2,000 theaters in 64 countries and 12 time zones. Only opera lovers and penguins in Antarctica were left out in the cold, as it were.
Puccini’s wonderful quasi-operetta “La Rondine” (“The Swallow”) features the star of the San Francisco Opera’s production, Angela Gheorghiu, in one of her best roles. And the other half of opera’s most notorious on-again, off-again couple, Roberto Alagna, plays her lover. If you don’t know the opera, you’re in for a major treat.
“Otello” can hardly be called a romp in the park, but the story and music are gripping. Playing Otello is the voluminous Johan Botha, while wife Desdemona is sung by the ever-glamorous Renée Fleming. As the villainous Iago, who shares responsibility for striking everyone down, we have the aptly named Falk Struckmann.
“The Enchanted Island’s” world-premiere cast — David Daniels as Prospero, Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax, Danielle de Niese as Ariel, Luca Pisaroni as Caliban and Placido Domingo as Neptune — its equally starry conductor William Christie and English-language libretto should be enough to drag audiences to the theater.
Where else but your own home can you chomp down on popcorn while watching live opera at its finest?
IF YOU GO
The Met: Live in HD Summer Encore Series
Where: CinéArts Empire 3, 85 West Portal Ave., S.F.; Century 9; San Francisco Centre, 835 Market St., S.F; Daly City 20, 1901 Junipero Serra Blvd., Daly City; and more
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays
Tickets: $12.50 each; $30 for four
Wednesday – “Rigoletto”
June 25 – “La Rondine”
July 9 – “Otello”
July 16 – “The Enchanted Island”