A Day at the Opera

Over the weekend I attended a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The best part? I didn’t even have to leave Guatemala City.

I was invited by Julia Pimentel, lawyer & soprano extraordinaire, to attend the live simulcast transmission of the new opera Marnie at the Dick Smith Theater of the Instituto Guatemalteco Americano (IGA).

Me, with the lovely & talented Julia

It was part of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” program, where operas are broadcast live from the Met to over 2,200 cinemas in over 70 countries!

It was a thrilling experience… the screen at the IGA theater showed folks arriving at the Met, and the sound of the orchestra warming up filled the room. I closed my eyes for a moment and felt instantly transported to Lincoln Center.

I confess that watching the opera on a screen isn’t quite as magical as being there in person, awash in the electricity of the audience and immersed in the majesty of the Met. There were, however, some unexpected benefits to watching a performance close-up, especially this one.

Marnie is modern opera, incorporating many of the best elements of stage theater. The music is sparsely beautiful, and the sets minimalistic, relying on graphic projections to add texture, color and content to the scenery.

The acting was simply outstanding. The marvelous vocal performances were enhanced by the facial expressions of the cast, especially the opera’s troubled heroine, Isabel Leonard. Her eyes often conveyed as much feeling and meaning as the lyrics themselves.

Marnie © The Metropolitan Opera

The story is based on a novel by Winston Graham, which was also made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock (starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.)

It is a psychological thriller, telling the tale of Marnie, a woman so haunted by her past that she cannot fully live in the present. Instead she escapes from place to place, from face to face, changing identities as easily as she changes the color of her hair. Her exhausting existence is reduced to routine of thievery and deceit. When her past –finally and inevitably– catches up with her present, it becomes a moment of liberation. “I am finally free,” she sings … as the police escort her away.

(For those of you screaming “spoilers!,” I disagree. I would argue that church and the opera are two places where knowing the ending of the story beforehand actually enhances your experience.)

The next opera to be broadcast will be La Traviata on December 15th. For more information on watching an HD simulcast near you, use the Met’s theater finder!

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