Over and Under: RIGOLETTO in NYC and Auckland

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February 12, 2013 – Lincoln Center / May 9, 2013 – Auckland, New Zealand
RIGOLETTO (Verdi)
Michele Mariotti; Diana Damrau, Oksana Volkova, Piotr Beczala,
Željko Lučić, Štefan Kocán

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Auckland skyline

Last week, Brent and I explored New Zealand’s North Island as guests of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.  The major city, Auckland, on Waitemata Harbor with its ranks of sheltering islands, shares the same latitude as San Francisco and many of the same geographical blessings of green hills and bridges over gleaming water.

Our 12-hour flight from Los Angeles southwest to Auckland was entirely over open Pacific Ocean; on the flight monitor I could see the International Dateline jog out east below the equator to grab New Zealand so that it doesn’t end up a day behind Australia.  With that, New Zealand is the most easterly habitation on the planet, and a hilltop in Gisborne, North Island is the first to see the sun each new day.  As regards Live in HD, this goes a long way toward explaining why I was seeing Rigoletto in the suburb of Northcote, North Auckland a full twelve weeks after its transmission in the United States.

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RIGOLETTO in New York & Auckland, three months apart

Since 1:00 PM Saturday in New York is 5:00 AM Sunday in Auckland, live transmission is out; HD tapes are shipped to Australia first, where they are digitized and then distributed to Australian and New Zealand theaters.  The 12-week delay is the longest delay worldwide: two weeks after the end of the regular HD season on April 27, New Zealanders are only 2/3 of the way through, just now enjoying Rigoletto; with Parsifal, Francesca da Rimini and Giulio Cesare still to come.

Insiders reading this blog may have noticed that I seemed to skip Rigoletto the first time around.  Not so!  Last February 12, I left Brent lecturing in Washington, DC after a whirlwind tour of three other cities and came up to New York on my own.  That night at Lincoln Center, our daughter Ali and I took our camera seats for the scratch taping of Michael Mayer’s neon Las Vegas extravaganza.  At the first intermission, we went back to visit the HD production truck parked on Amsterdam Avenue.  In the central control room of the truck, working from a wall filled with video monitors assigned to each of the cameras inside the house, sat a tight-knit team: the HD Director and Associate Director; HD Technical Director; Score Consultant; Supervising Producer (a second Supervising Producer remains backstage to oversee the intermission features); two Producers; the Subtitle and Broadcast Graphics team; and Executive Producer (and Met General Manager) Peter Gelb, who sits perched on a stool behind the HD Director, tracking every command.

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Alongside Camera 8 in the orchestra; a peek inside the HD truck; RIGOLETTO ticket in hand

Were she not with me, Ali would have squeezed in as well, along with others such as the stage director interested in how the production reads on-screen.  And that’s just in the central room.  Audio production is monitored and mixed in a smaller room to the left, and in the opposite room on the right sit the video technical team, directors of intermission features, and script writer – just a sampling of the vast number of people at work in the “control center” during each HD Production.

At the second intermission and after the show, Ali took me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the backstage and dressing room area where intermission interviews were being staged with stand-ins, to mimic the real interviews that take place during the live show.  After the house had emptied and the musicians all gone home, I stepped into the orchestra pit to look out at the house in the way only the conductor and orchestra see the auditorium; and we made a last stop at the tiny subterranean prompter’s box, before heading up to the 6th floor to look out a bird’s eye view of the house chandeliers and plaza.  Such a lovely evening.

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Tica & Ali enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Met’s Front of House

And now three months later, in a suburb across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, I was happily escaping a downpour for the pleasure of Rigoletto again.  The charming Bridgeway Cinema is a vibrant art house theater recently voted “New Zealand’s Best.”  It boasts a wine bar, homemade pastries and ice cream and doors opening into the adjacent Sausalito Café where I lunched on mouth-watering mussel and corn fritters.  On the wall in the cinema foyer is a sheet showing screenings of Rigoletto every day or night for a week for an enthusiastic crowd of regulars.

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RIGOLETTO at Auckland’s vibrant Bridgeway Cinema

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But now for Brent and me, this lovely journey through the world with the Met has come to an end.  From London in October to Auckland in May – and Lincoln Center in between – the 2012-13 Live in HD season has been a transcendent adventure.

Thank you for sharing it with us.