Where’s opera, Doc?

Opera is evidently everywhere except Charleston. Well, that’s not true. It’s in Charleston. It’s just not very comfortable.

Let me explain.

The Charleston County Public Library (www.ccpl.org) offers free showings of the high-definition broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera (www.metoperafamily.org), but you have to sit in not-too-comfy chairs and watch a relatively small screen to experience it.

For my operatic afternoon, I’d rather spend $22, sit in a space-aged chair, eat loads of popcorn, and watch opera on a gigantic screen with digital surround sound.

Believe me, it’s an entirely new medium, a new way of storytelling (multiple camera angles, incredible detail, texture, and color).

It’s a spectacle worth every penny.

The Azalea Square Stadium 16 in Summerville is the only movieplex in the area showing the Met’s wildly popular broadcasts. That’s great, but it takes much of a Saturday afternoon to experience opera. Add a drive to and from Summerville and most of your Saturday is pretty much zeroed out. (Tristan und Isolde is March 22, La Bohème April 5, and La Fille du Régiment April 26.)

And now this recent news: In the next four months, depending on where you live in the United States, you can watch 50 different opera broadcasts in theaters.

Is Charleston one of those places? Nope.

Thanks to the trail-blazing efforts of the Met, which discovered in 2006 that there’s a market for technologically cutting-edge broadcasts of opera (it added 15 more shows for the 2007-2008 season), opera houses everywhere have gotten on the bandwagon.

Along with the Met, it’s now possible to watch opera broadcasts in movie theaters from the San Francisco Opera, La Scala in Milan, the Los Angeles Opera, and, the latest, the United Kingdom’s Royal Opera House (though these won’t be live broadcasts; they will be recorded and released thus far only in Canada).

While there’s plenty of people willing to drive to Summerville (when I was there last, the theater was surprisingly full of aficionados who talked about opera the way baseball fans talk about baseball), it’s fair to ask why the home of Spoleto Festival USA, which hosts some of the best live opera in the world, can’t get more opera year-round, at least opera that’s as good as going to the movies. Someone somwhere must be missing a business opportuniy. Then again, what do I know? I first experienced opera by watching Bugs Bunny.John Stoehr

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