Affordable Opera, part 1

A visitor to OperaGene told me that she could not afford attending operas now and suggested adding an Affordable Opera section to the website; I am considering it.  In my blog post on February 29 titled “First, a Positive Message:  No, No, and No,” I made the assertion that you do not have to be rich to enjoy opera, but admitted attending opera is not a cheap proposition.  It is probably not more or much more expensive than attending pop music concerts, plays, or sporting events, but top-rate, live entertainment these days is expensive across the board.  Not every opera fan has the wherewithal to attend these events; I can’t attend them as often as I would like. 

So, how can you enjoy opera more affordably?  Let me count the ways.  First, check out offerings at some of the smaller venues offering live opera.  For example, in my area Wolf Trap Opera offers excellent productions in the summer using up and coming young performers; tickets go on sale on March 19.  Not too expensive tickets can be had; La Boheme can be seen for $25-75 in the outdoor Filene Center this summer.  Next down come the cinema showings of live and recorded operas for about $25 per ticket; these include air conditioning and more comfortable seats.  My blog post of March 2 titled “Pretty Good Value: the Met Opera Live-in-HD Cinema” discussed one series.  The reader who suggested the Affordable Opera page brought another cinema series to my attention.  The Royal Opera House of London also broadcasts a live-in-cinemas series, though to only a very limited number of theaters in the mid-Atlantic region if I am reading the map correctly; click here to see a performance list and enter your address into the box to find theaters that carry these in your area. I have added these performances to this blog’s side bar listing of performances (the side bar may appear on the bottom of the screen on some mobile devices).  The next scheduled live performance is Boris Godunov on March 21.

There are three other ways to view Met Opera Live-in-HD Cinema videos, two expensive and sure; the other free, but requires some searching.  Met Opera offers the videos for sale through the usual sources and places (Amazon; iTunes; their own shop; etc.), typically in the $25-30 range for most operas on DVD.  Met Opera also places these recordings into it own program of Opera on Demand.  For about $150 per year or $15 per month, you can have 24/7 access to their opera video library on your computers and most mobile devices.  Their library also includes television performances and audio-only performances.  There are 550 broadcasts available, and considering they are adding new ones on at least a monthly basis, you will probably never watch/listen to them all.  Of course, the more operas you watch, the better value this method becomes.  A great way to view many of these videos for free is to tune into the Great Performances at the Met broadcasts on PBS television.  Check here to track these down in your area.  I simply have my DVR set to record Great Performances at the Met.  Over the last two years I have recorded about 25 opera performances this way.  I find viewing these on my own devices has a few advantages:  I can pause the videos when I leave the room, or I can watch them in portions and even watch them multiple times; also, when I miss something, I can use my remote control to go back a few seconds to see it again.  Of course, the selection on PBS is limited and the availability is episodic. 

I have focused mainly on the Met Opera videos because the quality I have seen is typically good and their catalog is extensive.  If you wish to purchase opera videos from vendors such as Amazon or iTunes, your will have a wide selection of performances by other opera companies as well.  I recommend reading online reviews of any opera performance before making the purchase.

In the forthcoming part II, we will explore radio, streaming services, online sources, and the public library.