Opera "Live" at Duke

October 1, 2007
Popular culture: Thousands turned out on the mall in Washington to watch opera broacasts, coming to Duke this fall

Popular culture: Thousands turned out on the mall in Washington to watch opera broacasts, coming to Duke this fall. Courtesy of Washington National Opera

For the past three years, the Washington National Opera (WNO) has, like many other opera companies around the country, been experimenting with technology that allows it to broadcast its performances on a live video feed to select groups in remote locations. In 2005 and 2006, WNO "simulcast" Porgy and Bess and Madame Butterfly, respectively, to audiences on the National Mall in Washington. Porgy and Bess reportedly played to a satellite crowd of 13,000.

This fall, WNO is further expanding its viewing options, and Duke is among more than thirty universities, colleges, and high schools nationwide that will present a simulcast of WNO's performance of Puccini's La Bohème on Sunday, September 23. (The performance will also be simulcast in two theaters in the Washington metropolitan area.) The Duke viewing will take place at 2:00 p.m. in the Bryan Center's Reynolds Industries Theater and is free to the public.

This edition of the show, directed by Mariusz Trelinski, is a modern-day take on the classic opera, and WNO officials hope it will appeal to a younger audience. The opera follows a group of young artists as they struggle with their careers and relationships, searching for meaning in life and a greater connection with society.

"This is a very good introductory opera for people," says Shayne Doty '83, WNO's director of development, adding that an increase in this type of programming may help inspire Duke undergraduates to take leadership roles in the arts after graduation. "We're anxious to reach out beyond traditional opera lovers and traditional arts-goers. People have a misconception about opera audiences—that they're old, that they're maybe only people who appear wearing fur and black tie, and it's not the case so much."

Susan Dunn, director of the Duke Opera Workshop, says that simulcasts of New York's Metropolitan Opera in Raleigh have drawn large crowds, and she expects that a classic show like La Bohème may have a similar impact at Duke. "For students and people in the community who don't have a lot of chances to see live opera, this is a great opportunity."