I refer to The Marriage of Figaro – live at the San Francisco Opera House – and Das Rheingold, via HD rheingold.jpgsimulcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. One experience involved a procession of time, travel, anticipation, the entrance into the great hall, the darkened theater, the murmuring audience and the ineffable sense of being surrounded by a living organism – the opera – about to unfold.

The other involves considerably less cost, much less travel – the opera was screened at a downtown movie theater – incredible crisp visuals thanks to intimate hi-def camerawork, even behind-the-scenes interviews before the opera, and remarkable acoustics.

Mozart’s much-loved froth about love, deception and marriage still seduces the ears with music so beautiful, so replete with joie de vivre that it forgives even the weakest soprano. And while the SF opera’s production was nothing innovative, and all of the singers were perhaps merely fine, it still cast a spell that haunted the long drive back through the autumn evening. A handsome, vocally adroit Figaro, in the energetic form of Luca Pisaroni, did much to underscore that lingering memory.

But it was the entire experience, that sense that the opera house was a space apart, separate from the dailyness of life, a magic theater in Hesse’s sense, that made the time and money more than worthwhile. And as eye-dazzling as it was, Das Rheingold and its richly-hyped digital sets lacked that magic (at least for those of us not seeing the opera live in New York)…to be continued….