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Live From Milan

I tried to feel ballsy about it, like a toreador advancing into the bullring. In this case, I was fighting cultural indifference by flinging myself into a movie-theater seat at Crossgates Mall, asserting, by my presence at a Metropolitan Opera simulcast, that a small beacon of enlightenment still shone. Until I realized that Crossgates and all it stands for doesn’t give a shit provided I’m forking over cash.

So the snob in me (and it’s a very large presence) took much more satisfaction in attending an opera simulcast on Dec. 7 at the GE Theatre at Proctors. Furthermore: This was the opening night at La Scala. Take that, Lincoln Center.

A new production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen is opera-world newsworthy; in this case, it also featured the debut of 25-year-old mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role, a casting gamble by conductor Daniel Barenboim that paid off brilliantly. She has a big, gorgeous voice with a rich top end, and she acted the role with passionate conviction.

Jonas Kaufmann’s Don José was a convincing contrast. His Act 2 aria “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” was a high point, and his final moments worked convincingly in spite of director Emma Dante’s attempt to turn it into a superfluous rape scene.

Dante came from the theater world with no opera experience but plenty of ideas about goosing the production with high-concept folderol. Barenboim reportedly put the kibosh on some of the more outrageous of them, but she nevertheless was roundly booed by the opening-night audience—which is part of the La Scala fun.

The broadcast itself is a high- definition signal that looks terrific on the GE Theatre screen, with adequate sound as its complement. The video director had planned the sequences well, with a few discreet dress-rehearsal inserts dropped in, and we even got a preshow taste of the opening-night audience pomp.

Good thing we went to the early show, though; the evening’s rebroadcast went blooey at Radiotelevisione Italiana’s end, losing the last two acts to technical difficulties.

Proctors’ presentation of the Opera in the Cinema series continues with Verdi’s Il Trovatore live from Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona at 2 PM on Dec. 22, with a repeat at 7:30 PM; and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, from La Scala, at 2 and 7:30 PM on Jan. 26.

—B.A. Nilsson

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