Simanaitis Says

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AMONG ALL THE performing arts, opera is the most expensive to produce. Consider: It has singers also acting roles. It has musicians performing with them. It has theatrical lighting, scenery, and effects supporting its complex plots. As one of my favorite t-shirts says, “Murder, Treachery, Adultery, and Incest—All Sung to Your Favorite Tunes.” 

Like all performing arts, opera was drastically constrained during the worst of Covid-19. But, as matters improve, let’s celebrate its survival as exemplified by the Metropolitan Opera and Southern California’s Pacific Opera Project.

The Met’s 2021-2022 Season—Including HD. “After the longest wait in our storied history,” Met general manager Peter Gelb writes, “the Met returns to action on September 27 with an Opening Night that will be memorable in many ways.”

Gelb continues, “Not only will it be our first live opera in more than 18 months, it will also be the Met premiere of Terence Blanchards’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the company’s first performance of an opera by a Black composer—a momentous event for sure, and one that is long overdue.”

The opera is based on the experiences of The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, who grew up in the South. “Bend, don’t break” is its theme, and Gelb notes that it’s also a metaphor for the Met’s pandemic response.

The Met: Live in HD. Our familiar venue, Saturday mornings’ Live in HD resumes in theaters, literally around the world, with Mussorsky’s Boris Godunov on October 9, 2021. Fire Shut Up in My Bones follows on October 23. (Daughter Suz and I already have seats reserved at our local theater.) 

Here’s Live in HD’s complete season. It includes a new production of Rigoletto, January 29, 2022 (the previous Las Vegas setting being a tough act to follow); Turandot, May 7, 2022 (with Anna Netrebko as the icy princess); and Hamlet, June 4, 2022 (a Brett Dean opera I earlier streamed from a European production; well worth seeing again). 

Met Challenges. Speaking of Charles M. Blow’s employer, I note Julia Jacobs’ article in The New York Times, September 10, 2021: “The Met Opera Races to Reopen After Months of Pandemic Silence.”

The Met chorus is back at work, singing through masks. Image by Krista Schlueter for The New York Times, September 10, 2021.

Jacobs cites Tera Willis, head of the company’s wig and makeup department: “I would love about six months; we have six weeks.” 

Other work observed by Jacobs: “Just outside its gilded auditorium, which has been empty since the pandemic forced the opera house to close a year and half ago, stagehands were reupholstering some worn red velvet seats. Beneath the arched entry to the opera house, an electrician was installing wiring to make some of the heavy front doors touchless.”

POP Continues Popping with Imagination. Pacific Opera Project is renowned for its innovative productions: Madama Butterfly sung in Japanese and English, not Italian. The Magic Flute portrayed by video-game characters. A Star Trek Abduction from the Seraglio. A mobster Don Giovanni.

When Covid closed things down, POP performed at a drive-in theater. Its 2021-2022 return to familiar venues is a “Fairytale Season.” La Cenerentola (Rossini’s Cinderella) is at Los Angeles’ Ford Theater, August 27, 2021, already sold out; Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, is November 13, 14, 20, and 21, 2021, outdoors at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery (where POP produced Lucia di Lammermoor in 2017).

Iolanta is coming March 20, 26, 27, 2022, at Aratani Theater. Daughter Suz and I already have our tickets reserved for this touching Tchaikovsky opera; we enjoyed Anna Netrebko in the Met’s 2015 version. And Into the Woods will be another POP must-see for us in May, with details coming soon.

We’re glad to be back! Good for you, Met and POP, for getting through it all. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

One comment on “HURRAH FOR OPERA!

  1. Andrew G.
    September 14, 2021

    Dennis, your tee shirt reminds me of a funny video I saw on my local PBS station a long while ago.

    “All the Great Operas… in 10 Minutes”:

    Murder, treachery, adultery, and incest indeed!

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