The Met Opera Goes to Las Vegas: From Red to Black, the Gamble Pays Off

By Carole Reedy

Arias pouring into the dry night air from the casinos of Las Vegas? Just one of the challenges Peter Gelb has set for himself this season with a new production of Rigoletto, the classic Verdi opera from Italy that will be set in what Gelb calls the “misogynist rat-pack world of Las Vegas in the 1960s.”

Gelb turned things topsy turvy when he assumed the role of general manager at the MET (Metropolitan Opera Company of New York) in 2006. At that time, attendance was fading and the average age of ticket holders was rising, echoing the problems The New Yorker magazine has been experiencing.

Gelb energized the MET, bringing in Broadway and West End directors, taking chances on new productions staged by these most imaginative directors, contracting with the world’s finest singers, and, finally, transmitting operas in high definition (HD) to movie theaters around the world.

With beloved musical director of more than 30 years James Levine by his side, Gelb continues each year to introduce modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertoire. This year, however, was the first year since his Met debut in 1971 that Levine failed to raise his baton in front of the orchestra. Sadly, persistent health issues prevent his participation in the next season also.

Fabio Luisi has stepped in as musical director and keeps pace if not surpassing Levine in providing the sublime melodies that only the Met orchestra can give us.

The 12 new HD transmissions begin October 13, 2012 and will continue to entertain opera lovers throughout the world until April 27, 2013. Fingers crossed that Huatulco will be added to the list of cities transmitting the operas, but until then you can see the HD operas in Mexico City (Auditorio Nacional), Oaxaca City (Teatro Macedonio Alcala), Durango (Teatro Victoria), Cancùn (Universidad Del Caribe), Ciudad Juárez (Centro Cultural Paso del Norte), Cuernavaca (Teatro del IMTA), Guadalajara (Teatro Diana), León (Foro Cultural Guanajuato), Monterrey (Auditorio Luis Elzondo), and San Luis Potosi (Centro Cultural Universitario).

The operas are transmitted live on Saturday afternoons at 1 pm EST—noon in most Mexico locations. Longer operas begin an hour earlier, so be sure to check schedules each week. In most venues in Mexico, 90 minutes before the performance Mexico’s own world-famous opera expert Sergio Vela gives a charla, transmitted live from the Lunario in Mexico City, about the opera to be performed that day. For Spanish speakers the lecture is not to be missed as it is chock full of information about the opera, composer, singers, designers, and producers.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to attend any other opera after experiencing these transmissions. Just 50 to 350 pesos (prices vary by location) buys you a seat to see the most famous opera stars in productions that dazzle and hear an orchestra that soothes the soul.

Will more risks be taken this year? As Gelb told Spanish newspaper El Pais in an interview “Yes, but they must be confronted with intelligence.”

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