High-definition video opera debuts at Town Hall Theater

MIDDLEBURY - After months of preparation, Middlebury's Town Hall Theater is now ready to present live, high-definition broadcasts from the world's most famous opera house.

The Metropolitan Opera's "Live in H.D." series brings the excitement of live opera to movie houses all over the world - at a fraction of the cost of a seat at the Met. THT is the first theater locally to offer these broadcasts.

"People in our community have driven as far as Albany to see this series," said THT artistic director Douglas Anderson. "We're immensely proud to offer it at our beautifully restored theater."

Town Hall Theater's projection system, which had to meet the Met's rigorous standards, includes a 10- by 20-foot rear-projection screen and a state-of-the-art Bose sound system.

"You won't find a better place to see and hear these operas," said Anderson.

The first opera on the bill is Puccini's "La Rondine," a lesser-known work from opera's most popular composer, which debuts Saturday, Jan. 10 at 1 p.m. The story concerns a kept woman in Paris who defies convention to pursue romantic love with a na ve young man.

With its abundance of waltzes, flowing melodies and lightness of tone, "La Rondine" has often been compared to Viennese operetta. Neglected for years, it has been rediscovered and has become a favorite of opera houses and audiences alike.

One of opera's reigning divas, Angela Gheorghiu, stars in the central role of Magda. Thought by many to be the leading Pucini soprano of our time, she plays opposite her real-life husband, tenor Roberto Alagna. They are surrounded by Franco Zefferelli's sumptuous production.

"These productions are beautifully shot by dozens of cameras, giving everyone the best seat in the house," said Anderson. "You experience these operas in an up-close, very intense way."

English subtitles are projected onto the screen so everyone can follow the action.

"La Rondine" will be shown Jan. 10, at 1 p.m. Reserved-seat tickets are $22 and may be purchased by calling 388-1436. Tickets may also be purchased, if available, at the door.

Future Met "Live in H.D." broadcasts at THT include Lucia di Lammermoor (Feb. 7), Madama Butterfly (March 7), La Sonnambula (March 21) and La Cenerentola (May 9). Next season THT will show the entire series, beginning in September.

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