The final high-pitched note hung in the air of the darkened theater as the curtain slowly descended upon the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. After a beat of silence, the audience broke into applause, the house lights turned on and patrons began to gather up their belongings to exit the Quick Center.
Yes, the Quick Center.
On Saturday, the Quick Center hosted its latest installment of a series known as The Met: Live in HD. Projected onto the movie screen, The Metropolitan Opera presented the performance of Thomas Adès’ adaptation of “The Tempest” in collaboration with Fairfield University.
The Met: Live in HD is a program founded by The Neubauer Family Foundation in order “to reach existing audiences and to introduce new audiences to opera through new technology,” according to the website metopera.org/HD fans. Through this program, operas are streamed live from the Met in New York City to various places around the country.
This program allowed for two screenings of “The Tempest” at Fairfield. The first screening was a live performance streamed from the Met beginning at 1:00 p.m., and the second was an encore presentation at 6 p.m. Both of the screenings provided a unique opera experience to patrons of the Quick Center with extra features such as cast and crew interviews that live performances do not include.
At about five minutes to the hour, the lights of the Quick Center dimmed and the screen turned on to show the audience gathering in the Met in New York City. Candid shots of audience members were interrupted by slides containing facts and brief biographies of the cast members of “The Tempest.”
The camera then cut behind the scenes to the Live in HD hostess Deborah Voigt, who provided an introduction to the performance until the crew called for the director to go to the orchestra pit and begin the opera. Voigt continued to perform interviews and behind-the-scenes features with cast members, producers, directors and other crew members between Acts I and II and during the intermission of “The Tempest.”
When Voigt was not conducting interviews, the cameras freely panned backstage, allowing the audience viewing at the Quick Center to see the hustle and bustle of behind-the-scenes activity. Crews worked to set up the set and make instantaneous repairs as cast members walked around in their costumes, getting to their marks before the curtains rose again.
During the actual performance, cameras got up close to the action, zooming in on the performers so that every action and expression was projected onto the Quick Center screen in high definition. The sound quality was also extremely clear, and the combination of the two created a better viewing experience than one might have while actually sitting in the Met in New York City.
While the program The Met: Live in HD provided a very unique and exciting opera experience, the actual performance of “The Tempest” was less enchanting. The costuming and set design were both beautiful and bold, reflecting the personalities of the characters and the mood of the setting.
However, the musical arrangement left a lot to be desired. Actor Alek Shrader who played Ferdinand said in his interview with Voigt that Adès composed the music based on “pure emotion … [and] set the musical expression of what each character is going through.” This method of composition meant that the theater was often filled with a cacophony of sounds, from shrill and dizzyingly fast trills performed by Audrey Luna as Ariel, to impassioned movements involving simultaneous singing by three or more characters that only muddied their individual melodies.
Gerry Harrington and Elaine Kaczorowski were two residents of Fairfield county who made the trip to Fairfield to see the opera on Saturday night. “We love it. It’s amazing,” said Harrington about the Live in HD program, although neither she nor Kaczorowski were fond of this particular performance.
The pair of women frequently attend the opera performances at the Quick Center because of their cheap price and convenience. “You can be home 15 minutes after the show ends,” said Harrington.
The Met: Live in HD program conveniently brings contemporary musical culture right to Fairfield. At a discounted price of $10 per ticket, it is a cheap, convenient and unique way for students to experience a night at the opera.