The Metropolitan Opera is set to present its high-definition simulcasts on up to 400 movie screens in the United States during the coming season — nearly triple the number of venues from last season.
The company announced today a renewed and extended deal with National CineMedia (NCM) to present the live Saturday afternoon broadcasts at between 300 and 400 cinemas across the country. The operas will be shown at participating AMC, Cinemark, Georgia Theater Company, National Amusements and Regal theaters; according to the Met and NCM, more affiliate locations are being added to NCM's digital high-definition network.
The movie theater simulcasts were seen as a bold but risky venture when the Met launched them last season. In the event, they proved an enormous success, with more locations and screens being added over the course of the year and repeat presentations added at some locations. The program attracted press coverage all over the world, and the broadcasts themselves were extended during the season from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain to seven countries on three continents.
"In the movie-theater industry, this is one of the talked-about events of last season," Met general manager Peter Gelb told The New York Times. "For the first time, alternative content can actually command an audience. Cineplex, in Canada, reported that their profits were affected by the success of the Met programs."
Other opera companies have noticed the simulcast program's success as well. "I think it's a huge coup," said San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley to the Times. "I just got back from Europe, and everybody’s talking about how they can get in on this." San Francisco recently installed a state-of-the-art high-definition media center in War Memorial Opera House (though its union agreements don't yet allow for live simulcasts beyond the occasional free presentation), and the Royal Opera (Covent Garden) in London went so far as to purchase the Opus Arte DVD label with its high-tech video infrastructure. The Paris Opera and La Scala have also announced that they are investigating simulcast programs.
As for the Met's own simulcasts for 2007-08, the number of operas presented has been increased to eight (from six this past season), and they will be seen in at least ten countries: the U.S., Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the U.K. (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland), the Netherlands, Japan and Australia. (More countries may be added at a later date.) PBS has renewed its commitment to televising the operas subsequent to their theatrical showings, and last month the Met announced a deal with EMI Classics to release five of the coming season's simulcasts on DVD.
The schedule for the coming season's Met simulcasts — all of matinees — is as follows:
December 15: Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, starring Anna Netrebko and conducted by Plácido Domingo.
January 1: Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, starring Christine Schäfer and Alice Coote (with tenor Philip Langridge as the Witch) in a new English-language production by Richard Jones conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.
January 12: Verdi's Macbeth, starring Lado Ataneli and Maria Guleghina in a new production by Adrian Noble, with company music director James Levine on the podium.
February 16: Puccini's Manon Lescaut, starring Karita Mattila and Marcello Giordani and conducted by Levine.
March 15: Britten's Peter Grimes, starring Anthony Dean Griffey and Patricia Racette in a new production directed by John Doyle and conducted by Donald Runnicles.
March 22: Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, starring Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner with Levine conducting.
April 5: Puccini's La Bohème, with Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas starring in the Franco Zeffirelli production, conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
Advance tickets for the "Metropolitan Opera: Live in High Definition" simulcasts go on sale to Met Opera members on October 19 and to the general public on November 9. Tickets in the U.S. are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for children. For more information visit www.metopera.org/hdlive or call 1-800-Met-Opera (1-800-638-6737).