SW Florida opera lovers can have virtual seat in world’s great theaters this summer

Natascha Petrinsky and Angela Gheorghiu star in 'La Traviata,' one of the operas Silverspot Cinema will showcase as part of the Opera in Cinema series. (Marco Brescia/Teatro alla Scala)

Natascha Petrinsky and Angela Gheorghiu star in "La Traviata," one of the operas Silverspot Cinema will showcase as part of the Opera in Cinema series. (Marco Brescia/Teatro alla Scala)

Opera in Cinema

Where: Silverspot Cinema, Mercato, Vanderbilt Road at U.S. 41, Naples

Admission: $24 Sundays, $18 weeknights

Tickets: www.silverspotcinema.com

■ “Carmen,” 2 p.m. July 25 and 7 p.m. July 27, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy, starring Anita Rachvelishvili and Jonas Kaufmann

■ “Norma” 2 p.m. Aug. 1 and 7 p.m. Aug. 3; from Teatro Comunale, Bologna, Italy, starring Daniela Dessì and Kate Aldrich

■ “La Traviata,” 2 p.m. Aug. 8 and 7 p.m. Aug. 10, from Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas

■ “Simon Boccanegra,” 2 p.m. Aug. 15 and 7 p.m. Aug. 17 from la Scala, starring Placido Domingo

Metropolitan Opera HD Encore Series

Where: Hollywood 20, 6006 Hollywood Drive, Naples, and Coconut Point 16, 8021 Cinema Way, Estero

Admission: $15

Tickets: www.fandango.com

■ “Turandot,” 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, starting Marcello Giordani and staged by Franco Zefirelli

■ “Carmen,” 6:30 p.m. July 28, starring Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna

You can see two full-length, life-size operas in Naples next week — during the doldrums of low season.

The drawback is that they’re on HD screens instead of live on the stage. But that’s counterbalanced persuasively by the delights:

■ The operas being shown are recent productions from the world’s major houses — Teatro alla Scalla and the Metropolitan Opera, for starters.

■ You can watch these top-class performances in shorts and sandals, sipping a cabernet with a pizza, or at the very least, with one hand in a tub of popcorn. With cinema opera, the refreshment stand is much more extensive.

■ The curious who want to try opera can do so without investing the $75 to $100 per ticket for a live performance; Silverspot Cinema’s upcoming summer series is $24 for the 2 p.m. Sunday matinees and $18 for the 7 p.m. Tuesday repeat showings. The Metropolitan Opera Encore series, culled from the last four years of its live winter programs, is $15 for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday showings.

Naples is becoming a summer banquet for operaphiles, thanks to the decision of these two theater complexes to carry productions from two different companies. Silverspot Cinema opens its “Opera in Cinema” series with sure-fire fare: “Carmen” at 2 p.m. July 25.

Die-hard “Carmen” fans can actually compare performances. The production being aired at July 25 and 27 at Silverspot is from La Scala, with Anita Rachvelishvili and Jonas Kaufmann on a traditional set with strong orchestral interpretation from Daniel Barenboim. The Met version, set in a Franco-era, industrial-town Spain and starring Elina Garanča and Roberto Alagna, will be shown at the Hollywood 20 and Coconut Point 16 on July 28.

For the most part, however, there are no dueling performances. Silverspot is forging its season with an eye to offering different operas from the Met’s and on different nights.

“We’ve had requests to do this kind of thing. And even if we hadn’t, we had to do it,” said Gonzalo Ulivi, one of the family who own cinemas throughout South America. Ulivi has attended operas himself since his childhood. “We really took our time looking to search to find the right partner. With Emerging Pictures the operas are from the best theaters in Europe. They’re using theaters like Teatro Comunale, Bologna, with super productions. It’s really super-nice.”

In fact, the New York-based Emerging Pictures was the carrier for the first season of Metropolitan Opera in HD, before the Met opted to work with Fandango, a ticket seller with access to metroplexes such as Regal Cinema’s Hollywood 20. Ulivi said that Silverspot is using taped transmissions from Emerging Pictures now, but may opt for some the live performances in the future. With improvements like surround sound and digital transmission, he said, “It’s almost like going to Italy yourself.”

In fact, the performances nearly always begin with an audience-view look at the theater.

“We’re going to have some guests who come to the opera for the first time here,” Ulivi said. “Some of them may become opera fans for life. Others may not. But it’s here to try.

“We have programmed these in Argentina and Chile, and it’s doing very well. It’s a niche product in select theaters where you have an audience who understands and loves opera. We think this is that kind of audience.”

The Metropolitan Opera series has been around as a series of six live performances broadcast in HD since 2006. It wasn’t until two years after the Metropolitan Opera conceived it that the Hollywood 20 in Naples and Coconut Point cinemas began devoting a screen to local music lovers who sometimes had to drive to Miami for productions. The Bell Tower Cinemas in Fort Myers, the closest place for the Met productions in 2006 and 2007, was selling out.

How much difference does it make whether the performance the audience sees is live or not?

“I don’t know whether it does or not for the audience. I think that’s up to the individual taste,” Ulivi said. “For some people it may be more what the opera is or who is singing it.”

If attendance at a performance of “Eugene Onegin” at the Hollywood 20 July 7 is a barometer, Ulivi is right. Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky were in the leading roles, and the theater was three-quarters full, even though the performance was taped in 2007.

In a few cases, videotape will give the audience a chance to see pairings and events that won’t happen again. A showing of “Aida” at Silverspot Cinema Sunday included the only performance of Roberto Alagna in the role of Radames, the star-crossed war hero. It was shot on opening night at la Scala in December 2007. During the first act of the next performance, the Milan audience booed his lyrical interpretation of “Celeste Aida,” and the tenor stormed off the stage, never to return.

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