Bermuda: A High Def treat for opera lovers with “Enchanted Island”

Imagine watching some of the world’s best opera so close you can see the performers sweat? Local opera fans will get this treat right here in Bermuda, during special showings of high quality recordings of Metropolitan Opera New York performances—Jessie Moniz reports in The Royal Gazette.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda is presenting a number of high-definition films of operas.

‘Enchanted Island’ screens on Saturday. It includes music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and others, and a brand new libretto by Jeremy Sams. Opera super stars in the production include Placido Domingo as Neptune and award-winning mezzo-soprano, Joyce DiDonato.

Matthew Nester was instrumental in bringing the recordings to Bermuda. Mr Nester trained as an opera singer in university, but now works in banking here.

“There is not a whole lot of opera that comes to Bermuda,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to see not only the best opera stars in the world performing on stage, but it also gives the viewer the opportunity to get a glimpse of the Metropolitan Opera behind the scenes. They have interviews with the opera singers and backstage crew, so you get a rare peek at what goes on after the curtain goes down.”

He said with the quality of the film, and the close-ups on the performers, one could argue that it is actually better than sitting in the front row of the real theatre in New York.

“You can sometimes see the sweat coming off the performers’ foreheads,” he said. “For people in Bermuda who haven’t seen an opera before ‘Enchanted Island’ is a great opportunity to start, because the entire show is sung in English and the music is very accessible. The music is by Handel, so even people without a real knowledge of classical music would recognise him as the composer that wrote ‘The Messiah’.”

With opera a real passion of his, Mr Nester is excited about sharing that love and enthusiasm with the people of Bermuda.

“My goal was to eventually sing at the Metropolitan Opera before I decided to settle down and have a family,” he said. “Now I have to live vicariously. I have been in several shows with G&S and the Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society. The last one was ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. I was one of the Apostles. Before that I was in the ‘Full Monty’ as Malcolm.”

To show the operas in Bermuda, Mr Nester had to secure a licence agreement.

“The Metropolitan Opera HD productions are popular worldwide,” he said. “They offer them in countries spanning the globe. They made it very simple. It was just a standard agreement. They want to get the word out and make it as easy as possible for people to share their broadcast. The most complex part was getting all of the electronics and making sure the theatre was sufficient to their specifications.”

Anne Smith, another local opera fan and G&S member said this showing of ‘The Enchanted Island’ was particularly exciting because it was a new production. The reviews have been favourable calling it “irresistibly entertaining” and a “beguiling production”.

“The story is based on Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’, so it is particularly relevant to our Island,” said Mrs Smith. “Although it doesn’t say it explicitly, we all know that Shakespeare based his play on the discovery of Bermuda.”

Mrs Smith said the productions are filmed live and the quality and sound is fantastic. Unfortunately, the showings have not been well attended since the series started at the end of last month.

“I think we had over 20 people the last time,” she said. “It is not as many people as we would like. It doesn’t matter how good it is; not everyone is open to opera. It is an acquired taste. But these are quite sensational. My husband is not an opera fan but he has found them to be amazing. He just appreciates when something is done so professionally. This music was written hundreds of years ago but people are still listening to it, because it is so powerful and beautiful.”

Mrs Smith said she grew up with opera, as her father was a big fan, but she didn’t like it much as a teenager. Like most young people her age, she liked pop music. It was only as she grew older that she started to appreciate it.

“Now, I am really passionate it about it, which is why I got involved,” she said.

The last two operas on film for this series are Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ on April 28 and Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ on May 12 — both are in Italian with English subtitles.

“To anyone who has often thought about trying out their first opera, either of these would be ideal,” said Mrs Smith. “Both have very famous arias and even a newcomer to operatic music is bound to recognise some of the enduring tunes.”

The operas will screen at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration at 5pm. They are between three and three-and-a-half hours long. Tickets, $35 for adults and $30 for children, are available online, or Tickets may be purchased using cash or cheques only, at the door.

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