It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I’m in Valdosta, Georgia. During the late 1980s I lived in the Azalea City while attending the local college (now VSU, a full-fledged university) and courting the lovely, young lady who eventually capitulated and became my wife. Valdosta holds many wonderful memories for me. I’m hoping that my daughter will feel the same way about this town one day. To help facilitate a fondness for the city, I take my kid to different cultural attractions when we visit. Valdosta makes the process easy because the town supports the Arts.
Today, for example, while visiting the city, my child was able to experience a performance by the Metropolitan Opera. I’m able to do so thanks to technology, Valdosta’s local cinema, and the Met’s innovative Live in HD series (made possible by a generous grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation). My daughter and I, along with a group of fifty other individuals, were able to see what the audience at the Met was seeing. In fact, those of us in Valdosta actually saw aspects of the production that people in attendance at the Met couldn’t have seen. Thanks to sophisticated equipment, a group of skilled producers, and well-networked cameras, my kid and I were:
- taken down into the pit with conductor Maurizio Benini and the orchestra,
- given access to backstage happenings,
- introduced to the performers, and
- treated to impressive close-up shots of the singers from a number of vantage points.
The performance lasted three hours (with a 15 minute intermission) and was well worth the time and relatively low price of the tickets. In addition to stunning vocal performances, there were interviews with cast members Elina Garanca, Lawrence Brownlee, Alessandro Corbelli, Simone Alberghini, and John Relyea.
The two act opera, La Cenerentola, by Gioachino Rossini, is based on the fairy tale of Cinderella. It premiered in the Teatro Valle in Rome on January 25th, 1817 and has lost none of its charm in the intervening years. As with most versions of the story there are two, mean-spirited siblings who make life miserable for their kindhearted and overworked stepsister. However, there are noticeable differences in the composer’s narrative. Rather than a wicked stepmother and a fairy-godmother, Rossini’s comical twist on the tale features a dictatorial stepfather, an angel, a clever valet, and a prince in disguise.
For someone who has never been vaguely interested in opera, I now want more exposure to this branch of the Arts. This was the first time that I had ever witnessed a Live in HD performance. I plan to see many, many more. I’m actually sad that I won’t be able to see another performance until the Met: Live in HD 2009-10 Series kicks off in October. Watching the credits roll, I noticed that my daughter and other students can foster an appreciation for opera and other performing arts through the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s school programs. In fact, in February of this year, the Met joined with educators and representatives from opera houses around the nation to institute The Met: HD Live in Schools. At that time, 18 school districts in 13 states were participating and teachers had access to guides, sound clips, and student activities to use in classrooms in conjunction with the Met’s live broadcasts.
What makes this so powerful is that technology is being used (outside of the classroom setting) to bring rich performances in the Arts to people in more than 800 different venues. Technology is not only surmounting the obstacle of geographic location/distance when it comes to cultural events, it’s making it possible for users to get more of a robust experience than individuals who are actually onsite! If the Met can do this with opera, why aren’t school systems offering the same kind of experiences for learners?
- Here are a few images I snapped of Valdosta State University.