MET Opera gone for now, but it’s not forgotten

On a recent Sunday, while dropping off newspapers, glass and cans at the recycling center, I ran into opera fans.

The day before, at the public library, the same thing happened. Last week, in the grocery store and at the gas station, opera lovers stepped forward asking about The MET: Live in HD broadcasts that so many of us have enjoyed during the last two years.

When Allen Theatres bought Storyteller Theatres, the future of the Saturday opera broadcasts looked bleak. A few weeks ago, Heather Mullett wrote an impassioned letter to the editor in support of the MET project. Last week, Kent and Beverly Herath added their voices.

After a phone call and a written message left for Allen Theatres, I’ve learned things are up in the air. The good news is that negotiations between Allen Theatres, Fathom Events and the MET are under way. Standing in the wings is our trusty Director of the Community Concert Hall, Charles Leslie. A few years ago, Leslie told me he made an effort to bring the live broadcasts to the Concert Hall, but the movie theaters won. In a conversation last week, Leslie said he’s still interested, but it’s more likely a movie venue would win out again.

As a service to readers half way into the 2010-11 season, I started writing regular previews for the Herald. There had been no advertising and attendance was limited. Advance notice and word of mouth seemed to help build an audience. The Storyteller theater manager told me they had to average 100 patrons per opera in order to continue.

As to be expected in any new enterprise, there was a slow start. In the fall of 2010, about two dozen people showed up for the unadvertised broadcast of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold.” With a little push, by December, the numbers had doubled. By February 2011, when John Adams’s spellbinding production of “Nixon in China” aired, Durango passed the 100 mark.

To be sure, opera fans spread the word, the Herald continued to run previews and audiences thereafter hovered between 100 and 130.

The second season started well. More than 100 opera lovers showed up for Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena.” An even bigger crowd came for Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” on Oct. 29. And so it went for most of last year.

The entire Ring Cycle found a healthy audience during the two-year period. People differed about the contemporary staging of Gounod’s “Faust,” and one of my favorites, Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha,” got mixed reviews.

This year, while things are up in the air, I almost hate to tell you what’s scheduled, but here it goes: Four Verdi operas including “Otello” (Oct. 27), “Un Ballo in Maschera” (Dec. 8), “Aida” (Dec. 15), “Rigoletto” (Feb. 16); two by Donizetti – “L’Elisir d’Amore” (Oct. 13) and “Maria Stuarda” (Jan. 19), Wagner’s final opera, “Parsifal” (March 2); Berlioz’s epic work based on the Trojan War “Les Troyens” (Jan 5); plus Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” (Dec. 1).

You can add a little pressure so that Allen Theatres will resume an already successful enterprise. Email or call the corporate offices at www.allentheatresinc.com/contact.php or (575) 524-9933. Write a letter to the editor. See you in the grocery store, the gas station, the recycling center – and, hopefully – at the opera.

Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at jreynolds@durangoherald.com.