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Fort Lewis College cancels The MET Live in HD

After a successful 10-year run at Fort Lewis College, the popular MET Live in HD is kaput in Durango.

“We’re not a priority group,” Charles Leslie, director of the Community Concert Hall, said about canceling the opera broadcasts for 2021-22. “The Metropolitan Opera gave out its dates late in July. Students had already booked the Vallecito Room. We’re bummed. Disappointed. But students have priority at the college.”

Amber Grenhart, director of the FLC Student Union, confirmed that student groups had booked some of the Saturday MET mornings, but not all. In a phone conversation, she agreed to double check the 10 Met dates, see what student groups had reserved the Vallecito Room and discuss alternatives with Leslie as the Concert Hall is the booking organization.

How The MET Live in HD became a low priority is a mystery as FLC students attend the live transmissions, often accompanied by their professors. Music students in the opera-scenes class, not to mention voice majors and students in various choral groups plus drama majors, attend.

FLC Music Department Chairwoman Charissa Chiaravalloti said the department could be listed as a co-sponsor if “it will help you get the space.”

Responsibility for the program has fallen to the Concert Hall since it moved from Durango Stadium 9 in fall 2012. After two years watching The MET in the movie theater, a group of community members approached Leslie about transferring the program to the college. Special satellite technology would be required. The Vallecito Room, perfect for movies, would be the likely venue. Leslie studied the requirements, conferred with MET and FLC officials, and made the transition happen.

In October 2012, the first MET screening, Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” won over an appreciative audience. Part of the draw was the great Russian opera, the appealing FLC environment and ample parking. The original $24 ticket ($22 for seniors) has only gone up $1 since 2012. Student tickets were $18 at first and have since been reduced to $5 unless an opera fan donates a block of free student seats.

Community members make up the bulk of the audience; total numbers range from 200, a full house, down to 30, depending on the opera. If it’s “Madama Butterfly” or “Rigoletto,” you can bet the Vallecito Room fills up.

This season, The MET Live in HD has scheduled 10 operas. Streamed live from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, performances begin locally at 10:55 a.m. They usually last three hours with informative intermissions featuring interviews with performers.

Here’s the 2021-22 schedule in case the glitch gets repaired:

  • Oct. 9: Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”
  • Oct. 23: Terence Blanchard’s new opera “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.”
  • Dec. 4: Aucoin’s “Eurydice.”
  • Jan. 1: Massenet’s “Cinderella.”
  • Jan. 29: Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
  • Mar. 12: Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos.”
  • Mar. 26: Verdi’s “Don Carlos.”
  • May 7: Puccini’s “Turandot.”
  • May 21: Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
  • June 4: Brett Dean’s “Hamlet.”

The Vallecito Room at FLC is the only location linked to the MET’s special satellite, so other locations on campus are not an option. Grenhart said not all the Saturdays had been reserved and no attempt had been made to have the student organizations meet in other locations. Some negotiation might take place, and volunteers are ready to help.

“The Concert Hall pays for the room rental, so it’s up to Charles,” Grenhart said. “Apparently, there are also staffing issues.”

One ticket taker and one technician staff the MET broadcasts. Volunteers are ready to be ticket takers.

“We had a gap in the year of the pandemic, so if The MET Live in HD doesn’t resume this year, maybe next,” Grenhart said.

It seems as if this is a problem to be solved.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.