New York opera performances to be beamed to Douglass Theatre

Want to attend the Metropolitan Opera but not get dressed in formal attire or fly to New York?

Beginning Saturday, the Douglass Theatre and the Central Georgia Opera Guild will be showing a performance of the opera “Thais” through “The Met: Live in HD,” a program which broadcasts live performances from the famed opera company in high definition all over the world.

“We were approached by the Central Georgia Opera Guild in partnering for this,” said Gina Ward, administrative director of the Douglass Theatre. “We plan on continuing it next season and ongoing after that if there is interest in it.”

“Thais,” written in 1894 by composer Jules Massenet, is the story of an Egyptian courtesan in search of spiritual sustenance.

Famed opera star Renee Fleming will perform the title role in Saturday’s production, while Mercer University graduate Leah Partridge will have a small featured role.

“It’s my second time doing the HD program,” said Partridge, who also had a role last year in “Peter Grimes.” “It’s such an exciting thing to be a part of. There’s just this energy with the whole cast.”

Even though performers are always nervous mounting a live production of an opera, Partridge said they’re even more on edge because of a camera on a track that moves along the base of the stage.

There’s also a camera on both sides of the stage.

“It can be a little distracting if you aren’t used to it,” she said. “They also have a camera backstage, and they catch you going to the dressing rooms and ... doing interviews.”

And it’s not just a crowded opera house the singers are performing for.

It’s more like 1,300 crowded theaters.

Officials from The Met said the HD broadcasts are being shown in about 475 theaters in the United States and 880 worldwide.

“The Met: Live In HD” series won an Emmy Award and was seen by about 935,000 viewers for its 2007-08 season.

Perhaps the most notable advantage of the HD broadcasts is that they expose more people to opera.

“My parents and grandparents and other family really enjoy seeing (the broadcasts),” Partridge said. “It’s not always easy to go to New York. I hope (the broadcasts) continue. So many people have said to me that (the broadcasts are) their first opera.”

The Douglass is picking up the broadcasts in midseason and will broadcast a total of seven operas, including “Thais.” Tickets for Saturday’s noon show are $22 for general admission and $18 for students.

“The new HD capability brings the Douglass into the 21st century,” Ward said. “We will now have the capacity to present shows in the high definition format. The partnership with the Opera Guild raises the theater’s cultural profile within the city.

“Just as we have a long-established relationship with the Macon Film Guild, which presents high-quality foreign films on a monthly basis, the new partnership with the Opera Guild continues our commitment to innovative, high-quality programs.”