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The Met plans to simulcast operas online

Live video of top productions will also be shown in movie theaters across the U.S.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Metropolitan Opera will transmit six live performances to movie theaters and will broadcast more than 100 live performances over the Internet or on digital radio in a groundbreaking attempt to expand its audience, the company announced Wednesday.

The high definition satellite simulcasts to hundreds of movie theaters in North America and Europe will begin Dec. 30 with Julie Taymor’s English language adaptation of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” under the baton of James Levine, the company said.

Other productions scheduled for simulcast are “I Puritani,” starring soprano Ann Netrebko (Jan. 6); the Jan. 13 world premiere of Tan Dun’s “The First Emperor” with Placido Domingo in the title role; “Eugene Onegin,” starring Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky and conducted by Valerie Gergiev (Feb. 24); the new production of “The Barber of Seville” with Juan Diego Florez (March 24); and the new production of “Il Trittico,” conducted by Levine and directed by Jack O’Brien (April 28).

These productions will be broadcast later on PBS-TV via conventional and high definition formats.

“The unions have kindly granted us control over the creation and distribution of our electronic content,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s new general manager, said in a statement. “This is a unique opportunity to raise our profile and grow our audience. Opera will now enter the digital era.”

Under the agreements with the unions, the Met’s archive of 1,500 radio broadcasts from the past 75 years eventually will become available as part of an audio on-demand service. Up to 500 will be available for this season, the company said. The Met will have the right to distribute its new productions and its archived performances on virtually all electronic formats, it said.

The Met said it also plans to make deals with other companies for distribution of digital downloads, video on demand, digital radio, instant CDs and even ring-tones.

The company’s Saturday matinee radio broadcasts will continue, from Dec. 9 to May 5, and the audience will be targeted for promotion of the simulcasts.

“Opera fans are as fanatical about opera as baseball fans are about baseball,” Gelb said. “We want to make the Met as available electronically to its followers as the Yankees are to theirs.”