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Palace 9 Caters to Aria Heads with the Met in HD

State of the Arts

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Want popcorn with that? Soda? Junior Mints? Concessions accompany the concert when Palace 9 Cinemas in South Burlington serves up the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series this year. According to the movie theater’s general manager, Gail Clook, the Palace bought a new digital projector “specifically for this” — “this” being high-definition broadcasts, via satellite, of the entire performing-arts season of New York City’s famed opera company. Distant audiences have the advantage of bird’s-eye views of the entire stage, and they can watch “extras,” such as interviews with performers, while the singers in Manhattan take an intermission. Of course, it’s also a chance to take a pee break during a three-hour-plus production.

Last year, Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center introduced the Met’s HD series to North Country opera fans; an enthusiastic reception encouraged programming director Margaret Lawrence to bring it back this year. Just weeks ago, the newly renovated Middlebury Town Hall Theater announced it would be carrying the series — though only half the season, starting in January. Now that world-class opera is also playing next door to, say, High School Musical 3 in South Burlington, will the Met on HD compete with Vermont’s scant local opera performances (see page 19A)?

Clook doesn’t think so. “I have a feeling they won’t hurt any live productions,” she says of the series, which includes 10 operas through the 2008-2009 season, with an encore screening of each two weeks later. One thing’s for sure: The Palace will be attracting more white-haired theatergoers. “There’s certainly a lot of interest among older people,” says Clook. “[Theater owner] Harold Blank initiated it. He thought it was a way to broaden our audience.”

No word on whether Vermont opera fans are dressing up for the shows. You could be the first.

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