Have I been living in a cave? I didn't think so, but I'm more than a little surprised I hadn't already heard about this. The "La Scala Series" — cinema presentations of recent productions from La Scala (and a couple from Venice and Florence) — is being screened in a selection of Greater Union cinemas, including one near (well, near enough) me. Why hasn't this been bigger news? Or is it just me? I found out because I've ended up on the mailing list for Opera Queensland and happened to notice an ad for screenings in that state. I followed the link and discovered they're happening in Bondi too.
And they look pretty fantastic. The program detail links on the Greater Union site don't seem to work, but there's more information here, courtesy of the distributor, Arts Alliance Media. My timing is perfect, thank god — I'm just in time for a La traviata this weekend starring none other than the bewildering star of my last post, Angela Gheorghiu. A week ago I might have wished for somebody else but for now her ambiguous fascination holds and I'm curious to see her Violetta. I've seen her famous Covent Garden performance on DVD, but that was years ago, and if I'm completely honest, while I enjoyed it, I wasn't overwhelmed by it the way the rest of the world seems to have been. But now the prospect of Angela is semi-alluring and I suspect that (even if against my will) I might get a bit more of a thrill this time around. Or not, but we'll see.
Also, Maria Stuarda! Which makes me happy in itself but comes with a dynamic duo as a bonus — Mariella Devia as Maria and Anna Caterina Antonacci as Elisabetta. Yes please! Mariella is somebody I forever reading about but haven't yet had an opportunity to enjoy. The darkly fascinating Anna Caterina, meanwhile, is somebody I already know and adore.
There appears to be an Aida featuring Roberto Alagna, which is intriguing. Pre walk-out, presumably. The chance to hear the rest of La rondine appeals; the name Fiorenza Cedolins rings bells, though I'm not sure if they're good bells or bad bells. What else? A Forza conducted by Zubin Mehta, with Violeta Urmana and Marcello Giordano — not bad. Il Trittico, which as far as I can tell may or may not include lovely Barbara Frittoli as Angelica. Paoletta Marrocu, who I remember as a strange and terrifying Lady Macbeth to Thomas Hampson's funny looking (sorry — he did sound wonderful) Macbeth, is Giorgetta in Il tabarro. Those are pretty much the only names I recognise but that's no indicator of anything; in fact much of the appeal here is the chance to hear singers I don't know — one of the disadvantages of living in this half of the planet is that, without travelling, it's hard to know much about anyone without a recording contract. The final production in the series is, lo and behold, a Tristan und Isolde! So unless I finally go and buy myself a recording in between, both my first and my second Tristan will be enhanced by popcorn. Did I mention this one has Waltraud Meier? It does. I like her a lot, based on nothing more substantial than her appearance in James Levine's Anniversary Gala. Michelle DeYoung reappears as Brangäne. Ian Storey is Tristan and I can't shake the feeling that his name should mean something more to me than it does.
Of course, all this does mean that I have to start going to Bondi in my weekends, which doesn't have me wild with joy. But suffering for art is part of the deal.