Opera Debut Earns Bravos at Sunrise
Opera is no longer a phantom at the Sunrise Theater.
On Saturday, Southern Pines joined Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville and Concord as the only North Carolina locations awarded "The Met: Live in HD" simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
"Tosca," the season premiere of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning series, sold out.
"Give people something they like, and they'll come," said B.J. Dunn, a volunteer usher.
"There are more closet opera fans here than I realized," added Dr. Gerard Catapano, who teaches a "Painless Italian Opera" class at Sandhills Community College and has sung in a chorus on the Met stage.
Forget rotund tenors and zaftig sopranos. High-definition subjects singers to more than vocal scrutiny. They must act. They should physically fit the part.
While size 10 Karita Mattila as Tosca and vertically challenged Marcelo Alvarez as her lover Cavaradozzi aren't Brangelina, they could be a couple. Up close, George Gagnidze came across deliciously menacing as Scarpia, while David Pittsinger (political prisoner Angelotti wearing a poufy Jeffrey Mims shirt) displayed athletic agility.
The show began with an audience dressed for the occasion. Doug Gill arrived in a faux tuxedo with oversized bow tie to which was affixed Met at the Sunrise logos.
"I grew up deep in the Midwest," he said, sipping champagne. "I never heard of opera."
His wife Lydia Gill, an opera cognoscente who attends performances in Charlotte, sported a stunning little black number she remembers wearing to the Met in New York.
"Yes, I dressed up it's the opera," she said.
Not so, Carole Catapano.
"The (unseasonably sweltering) weather threw a wrench into my plans to wear a suit dress." she said. "I just wanted to be comfortable."
The Sunrise wore new carpet and refurbished balcony seats -- part of a $40,000 upgrade that included the electronic equipment required to receive HD transmissions.
The performance beamed worldwide was delayed six minutes by solar flare activity. A rustle of disapproval over an opening commercial for global corporate sponsor Bloomberg Media quickly turned to rapt attention as maestro took the podium and the curtain rose.
Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca," first performed in 1900, has been called an opera's opera because it has everything: melodic score, political intrigue, thwarted romance, sex and violent death. The new, rather grim staging by Gary Halvorson (of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade), which replaced a softer one by filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, irritated New York critics.
However three acts and two 30-minute intermissions stretched the experience to nearly four hours of pure entertainment for the Sandhills audience. Attendees reacted according to prior experience.
Tyrone McClean, a student at University of North Carolina at Pembroke represented the few nonseniors. He studies voice and has sung arias, but "Tosca" was only his second opera experience.
Fantastic," he said, although brief nudity in the second act caught him and many others off-guard.
Seasoned opera-goer Robert Brown found the production "very gritty, intense," compared to the Zeffirelli version. "You could really see Scarpia's eyes," he said. "They were reptilian."
Cinda Dedmond (whose husband promised her a trip to the Met for her 50th birthday and still plans to deliver) called the simulcast fabulous, passionate, high drama.
"It was way different than on TV."
The attendees impressed Catapano: "They reacted. It wasn't a dead audience."
Hardly. Tosca's stop-action suicide leap prompted squeals. Villains were good-naturedly booed during the curtain call. And subtitles helped the audience appreciate humor in the oft-overblown dialog.
But with one voice, the crowd praised "Tosca's" musicality.
Forget stuffy. Boring doesn't apply. "The Met: Live in HD" proved to be glamorous, Broadway-style opera, which the audience lapped up like Cherry Garcia. No wonder, then, when the curtain fell on Tosca's plunge, Sara McGinnis gasped "It's a wrap!"
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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