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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Thursday, July 24, 2014

In the ether: screenings from the Met, the National Theatre, and beyond

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 5:53 pm, Tue Oct 15, 2013.

The Met: Live in HD begins its eighth season this week, and in that relatively short span it has become what it calls “the world’s largest provider of alternative content.” I’m not sure why the Metropolitan Opera prefers calling its product “alternative content” rather than “opera,” but whatever one chooses to call the stuff, it has proved popular indeed. This season, the Met’s broadcasts are to be beamed into some 1,900 theaters in 64 countries. They now provide subtitles in nine languages, with Swedish making its bow this year. Swedish? That seems surprising, since Sweden is only the world’s 89th largest country by population, and Finland (where Swedish is also an official language) ranks at 114; then too, it does serve in a pinch as a sort of pan-Scandinavian tongue. In any case, folks in those upper latitudes apparently love sitting in theaters and watching alternative content during their long winters. In fact, only three countries boast more theaters showing The Met: Live in HD than Sweden does. The United States has the most by far, with 748 subscribing theaters (including our own Lensic Center for the Performing Arts), followed by the United Kingdom with 175 and Germany with 167.

At a time when the world seems so fractured, it is heartening to think of huge numbers of people across the globe simultaneously setting aside four or five hours to share a cultural experience. At least that’s more or less what they do. From Vancouver to Moscow, attendees really can experience the transmissions live, although in many locales (including Santa Fe) they have an option to attend a delayed broadcast later in the day. If people here go to a rebroadcast, who knows with whom they wiil be overlapping. In Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, for example, time delays are at the very least a practical necessity, and it appears that delays of a few days or more are not uncommon. In any case, everybody views the same transmission in the course of a week or two, which means that while the memory is still fresh people in Miami or Memphis can Skype their fellow opera fanatics in Montevideo, Marrakech, Mumbai, or Manila to gush over the ball-gown the diva wore in Act 2.

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