Can you guess why?
This afternoon I went to my first Met in HD Cinema Broadcast and I am in love. With the idea of it, with the reality of it, and with everybody involved in making it happen. It works. Beautifully. Not a glitch in sight, everything looked and sounded wonderful. Even the audience behaved impeccably, with the exception of the woman who arrived ten minutes late and then complained about being given a less than wonderful seat. (That'll happen when you're late to a sold-out show.)
This was Roméo et Juliette, as seen in the US two weeks ago. My Southern Hemisphere brain still has difficulty grasping that what it's seeing is a recent event, not something on a six month delay, but with seven more broadcasts to come, I'll adjust.
To the performance itself.
Anya! I want to say this about Anna Netrebko right now — as far as I'm concerned, she deserves to be the superstar she's become. This is not the same as saying she deserved to be called one of the great artists of her time. That's another argument. But watever she does or doesn't have, she puts together in a way which is extraordinary. She mightn't always be excellent, but she's always special and always Anna. In any case, Juliette seems like a good fit for her. Not the beginning — she cracked on her first high note and "Je veux vivre" was a bit clunky and (of course) trill-free. After that, though, it was just up and up. I thought she was gorgeous on every level, and the Poison Aria was stunning.
And then the rest. For perhaps the first time in my life, I genuinely enjoyed Roberto Alagna. Which helped. His tights did look like light blue jeans from some angles, and his death throes elicited a silent giggle or two from yours truly, but otherwise it was mostly pretty fantastic. Nathan Gunn was a highlight. I heard him in the radio broadcast of An American Tragedy way back when but hadn't ever seen him in action. It certainly helped me understand the Nathan Gunn Phenomenon a little better; he really is, as the Met publicity claims, irresistible. Isabel Leonard was a pretty impressive Stéphano, too. Never having seen (or heard) the opera in its entirety before, I hadn't realised what an odd role that is — a big hit aria out of the blue, followed by a little Capulet-baiting, and then he disappears again. It's not exactly the greatest opera in the world. But it's pretty enough in its very French way and there are some great moments.
Speaking of great moments — as much as I now love Peter Gelb, I love Renée Fleming more, on account of the intermission feature. She is eerily in her element as chatty, smiling interviewer. Her conversation with Placido was charming. She's a blessing — a relatable, appealing host who also just happens to be RENEE FLEMING and therefore seriously well informed about opera. Meanwhile there's Anna being equally charming, in her own nutty way — making faces at the camera when coming offstage, and then, even better, hurtling into the background while Renée was speaking to the camera, in the manner of those annoying people who wave behind reporters in the street.
Yet despite all of this brilliance, do you know which part of the broadcast I loved most? The clip shown during intermission of Natalie's Lucia. There she was, my Natalie, on the big screen, being too amazing to be believed. I was instantly in floods of tears. Hate to think what kind of state I'll be in for La fille du régiment. At least I have a while to prepare.