By Carol-Ann Rudy

In an effort to build on the success of its inaugural year last season, the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York City is more than doubling the number of movie theaters showing high-definition simulcasts of performances to 358 venues across the nation. The first of eight simulcasts was on Dec. 15 and featured a three-and-a-half hour production of Romeo et Juliette. Gorgeous Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Roberto Alagna played the lead roles, as the Met tries to appeal to a wider, and younger, audience.

The first season was considered highly successful with only six shows in 118 U.S. venues. The Met sold 324,000 tickets throughout the world at $18 a ticket, dramatically cheaper than a ticket at most opera houses for the live performance. This year most theatres will charge $22, a modest increase. Last year, the Met took 50% of the proceeds and also benefited from other income from sale of rights.

“Simulcast” is an abbreviation for “simultaneous broadcast.” Live performances in HD appear on the theatre screen in a simulcast. Although the productions are broadcast on Saturdays, some of the simulcasts will have encore performances on Sundays with a special performance of Hansel & Gretel on the Tuesday of New Year’s Day.

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Simulcasts scheduled for 2008 are:
Hansel and Gretel by English composer Engelbert Humperdink (the original, not the pop singer), a special presentation on New Year’s Day, Tuesday, Jan. 1
Macbeth by Italian composer Guiseppe Verdi, January 12
Manon Lescaut by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, February 16
Peter Grimes by English composer Benjamin Britten, March 15
Tristan und Isolde by German composer Ricard Wagner, March 22
La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, April 5
La Fille du Regiment by Gaetano Donizetti, April 26

There is a common feature in the scheduled productions: most are more than three hours long with one intermission, and Tristan und Isolde is 5 hours and 35 minutes.

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(The image accompanying this story is from the University of Rochester)