Avatar vs. Carmen

Last weekend we went to see Avatar at the multiplex up the street. It's great entertainment, incredibly rich visually. It's a pretty long film, but to me didn't seem so. We left the cinema happy and satisfied. Yesterday we went again to a multiplex, but this time to Harrisburg, and for the purpose of seeing a live simulcast of Carmen from the Met. Wow! I've never been a big opera fan and have only gone to see professional opera a few times in my life. I've never been to the Met. But in a sense, yesterday we had a more close up experience than anyone who was actually at the theater. The technology is stunning. The audio is excellent and the HD cameras bring you amazing detail and close up focus. I'll take this over a film any day. The production: above all, the Latvian soprano Elina Garanca in the title role. Olé, Elina! This girl has it all. What a voice! And what acting! She owned that stage. (In that regard, and certainly in that regard only, she reminded me of another performer I love to see on stage...) Roberto Alagna as don José was fantastic. Of course, I don't know anything about opera and so maybe it would have all seemed wonderful to me regardless of who was performing. This new production also included some dancing, created by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Interesting, but I don't think it added anything significant. (The New York Times review of the season's first performance is here.) After the show I found myself thinking about the technology that makes this possible and its general implications for culture. It's just another example of a potential democratizing force: now, the greatest manifestations of high culture can be experienced by just about anyone, potentially, almost anywhere. You don't have to go to New York (or Paris or London) to see the great artists of the day perform. Yes, it's true, it is not the same as being at a live performance, but it sure is an extremely high quality and worthy experience. This is nothing like, for example, seeing a video on a smallish tv screen. And it's a lot cheaper, too. More expensive than going to a movie, but a lot less than the cost of going to NY. So, Avatar or Carmen? I'll take Carmen, without a doubt. (We saw several familiar faces at the theater, and Asun ran into a former colleague. It was a typical friends of friends linked to colleagues, neighbors, etc. situation.) We ended up having a really lovely time with a fun and ecclectic group: people from Spain, Mexico, the US, and Latvia. Amazingly, our new Latvian friend, Linka, a professional pianist, has a direct connection to Elina Garanca: she gave lessons to Elina's mother. Small world! I have a feeling Elina is on her way to becoming an international megastar. That's her, above, in the photo.