Gift Guide for the Opera Lover
Opera in daily life

Holiday Gift Guide for the Opera Lover in Your Life

The holidays are just around the corner – and while it can be tough to find the just-right gift for everyone on your list, if you’re looking to cross off the opera fan in your family (even if that’s you!) we’ve got you covered. From top-notch electronics and unique experiences to a clever way to save all those opera tickets, check out our top 10 gift ideas for the opera lover in your life.

Tickets to a show or season

This one might be obvious, but for the experience-seeking opera fan, you can’t go wrong with tickets to a show. Bonus points for you if you give them an extra ticket so they can bring a +1! If you don’t want to go as far as picking seats for them, you can also surprise them with a gift certificate. Palm Beach Opera offers convenient gift certificates and will even send them out for you if you want. Want to really wow them? Give them the ultimate opera-goer gift and purchase them a season subscription so they won’t miss a single show.

The perfect opera coffee table book

The Most Beautiful Opera Houses in the World by Guillaume de Laubier features stunning photography and insight into the most famous – and gorgeous – opera houses around the world. Explore ornate opera houses in Tokyo, Chicago, Milan, New York, and beyond, complete with inside looks into closed-off spaces like dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, and workshops. Perfect for anyone who appreciates architecture, photography, and/or a chic coffee table, this gift is sure to excite the opera fan with an eye for design.

Opera glasses

For the opera fan who sits at the back of the theater, pick them up a pair of binoculars to improve their theater-going experience. Choose from a compact pair of binoculars, or opt for a unique vintage pair of opera glasses for the fan who appreciates all-things retro.

Noise-canceling headphones

For the music fan who always carries a pair of headphones with them, gift them the upgrade of the Bose QuietComfort wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. These are top-notch headphones (and they come at a top-notch price) that will thrill anyone who loves to listen to music on the go, on the plane, or while they work remotely. Built for comfortable listening all day long, complete with plush, leather ear cushions, these headphones boast high-quality sound, a long battery life, and Bluetooth capability.

Vintage opera posters

Perfect for the opera fan with a gallery wall (or who wishes they had one), these vintage opera posters are sure to impress any art lover. With so many sizes to choose from, you can pick out the perfect poster for their needs. Help them spruce up their workspace with a small one for their office, or encourage a bold, oversized poster for that empty wall in their big living room. Bonus points for you if you have it framed!

Books on opera

For the opera fan who loves to read, gift them the “best single volume ever written” (Times Literary Supplement) on opera. A History of Opera by Carolyn Abbate retells the history of opera in an easy-to-read narrative, highlights the role of opera in society and examines how opera has continued to communicate with audiences for more than 400 years. Looking for another book? Head over to our Books to Inspire Your Season of Opera for more ideas!

Ticket Stub Diary

For the opera-goer who can’t seem to throw out their ticket stubs, gift them with a place to put them all with this pretty and functional ticket stub diary. They can save each of their beloved ticket stubs, and even add notes like dates and locations, to better record the experience.  These hardcover ticket stub diaries also look great on a coffee table or in a bookshelf! You can find the ticket stub diary pictured below at Uncommon Goods.

Opera-inspired apparel

For the opera-goer who is always cold inside the theater, gift them a wardrobe classic – the coveted cashmere wrap. A high-quality cashmere wrap is the perfect accessory to an elegant opera outfit, and it’s something that can be worn on many occasions. For the opera fan who loves to share their passion with the public, give them a t-shirt with all their favorite composers on it or another fun opera-fan t-shirt. (Etsy is a great place to make a custom tee!) Perfect to sport under a blazer inside the theater or wear casually outside of the opera house, these apparel options are easy, practical, and thoughtful gifts.

Turntable and vinyl

Another great gift for an opera music lover who also appreciates vintage and retro pieces, a turntable is a unique and timeless way to listen to opera. Pair this affordable turntable with some vinyl opera records, and you are good to go!

Memberships

Is the opera fan in your family a young professional? Check out PBO Young Friends memberships for a unique gift that will last an entire season. Young Friends can enjoy networking opportunities, meet new people, and take advantage of discounted opera tickets and subscriptions.

 

 

 

 

 

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New productions, Opera history

A Hologram for the Queen… of Opera

We’ve talked before about the artificially-enhanced opera experience of watching a live Met broadcast. Now the technology is going one step further and bringing opera royalty back from the dead. Sort of.

Maybe you’ve heard the news: the great Maria Callas is touring again. Although this time she’s a mere ghost of her former self—literally.

Yes, the wizards at Base Entertainment—the same company that brought you “Criss Angel, MindFreak” and “Magic Mike Live from Vegas”—has resurrected the voice of arguably the greatest soprano in opera history, some 40+ years after her earthly departure. And she might be coming to a city near you, complete with a live (yes, actually live) orchestra.

The critics who refuse to suffer the overly-produced Met broadcasts should have a field day with this one. But not so fast. While campy and eerily disturbing, it might also be the sort of spectacle that captivates your attention, despite your best intentions to dismiss it.  Not unlike watching an illusionist on stage. You know it’s not real, but yet you can’t look away.

At times, it seems to work beautifully and you’re completely unaware that the apparition on stage is a computer-generated projection. At other instants, there seems to be a small glitch, a ghost in the machine (pardon the pun), as if she’s a puppet and the puppet master is a bit drunk and slightly off his game. There are moments when you hear her voice singing full-out, but her mouth is nearly closed. Well, it’s all an illusion anyway, so if you’re not willing to suspend disbelief, then better not to participate at all.

Ironically (or not), the best part is when the designers of this spectacle decide to make the best of the fun toys at their disposal and use the technology to full effect. Like when Callas throws a deck of playing cards up in the air and they freeze in space momentarily. Then the diva stares at them while they slowly flutter down as the orchestra transitions to the next aria. If you’re going down the path of a Las Vegas magic act, might as well commit to it.

But how does this all happen? How do we get this specter of the dearly departed Maria Callas performing right before our eyes? Was she considerate enough to record this concert in anticipation of the technology that had not yet been invented at the time of her career?

Well, no, of course not. The holographic body of Maria Callas is on loan from a present-day model/actress who spent weeks studying the personality of Ms. Callas, as well as her body language, gestures, and famous report with the audience. The 3-D facial features (and sometimes out-of-sync mouth movements) were created from a computer composite from a library of photographs.

The voice was even more difficult to replicate. According to Marty Tudor, Executive Producer and CEO of BASE Hologram Productions:

“Keep in mind that back when Callas was recorded, she was not in a separate room from the orchestra. Now, for the first time, the technology exists for the vocals from original recordings to be separated from both the orchestra and other singers. As an aside, when we were separating Callas’ voice from the orchestra there were times it was difficult to decipher her from the instruments due to her ‘perfect pitch.’”

This is all very interesting, but if you’re considering attending the concert, probably better to not dwell on the mechanics. Have a drink or two before the show and let the illusion captivate you… just like the real Maria surely would have 40 years ago. It’s theater, after all, and we want an escape. And what better escape than watching someone escape death while entertaining audiences that weren’t even alive the last time she performed?

Brava, Maria! Encore, encore! (And this particular encore could go on for quite a while…)

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Opera trivia

Our Picks for Top 7 Opera Houses Around the World

From the 18th century home of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to the Parisian theater that set the stage for “Phantom of the Opera,” browse through our selection and gain insight into some of the world’s oldest and magnificent theaters.

Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

Teatro alla Scala

Teatro alla Scala (or “staircase” in Italian) was built on the same site as the Church of Santa Maria della Scala in Milan, Italy. Designed by Giuseppe Piermarini in 1778, this world-famous opera house is where many great composers first performed their masterpieces, including Verdi and Puccini.

Fun fact: The first performance of Puccini’s unfinished title Turandot took place here in 1926. At the end of Act III, Conductor Arturo Toscanini halted the orchestra, laid down his baton and stopped the show — as this was the last scene Puccini wrote before his death.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House

With more than 8.2 million visits each year, the Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable buildings of the twentieth century and is Australia’s number one tourist destination. Construction was expected to only take four years, but completing the opera house took 14 years to finish and involved 10,000 construction workers. Completed in 1973 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II, the opera house’s first production was Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace.

Fun fact: Long before the building was finished, American singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson sang “Ol’ Man River” to construction workers in 1960, making him the first person to perform at the opera house.

Estates Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic

Estates Theatre

Home to the world premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, The Estates Theatre was built in less than two years thanks to aristocrat František Antonín Count Nostitz Rieneck in 1783. Constructed in the classicist style and characterized by teal velvet inside, it’s among the only theaters in Europe preserved in its near-original state.

Fun fact: The inscription written above the theater entrance, “Patriae et Musis,” means “To the Native Land and the Muses,” which many believe is a testament to the Count’s intention of spreading the ideas of the Enlightenment period.

Drottningholms Slottsteater in Stockholm, Sweden

Drottningholms Slottsteater
Machinery used to simulate sound on stage. (Atlast Obscura)

One of the oldest preserved opera houses in the world, the Drottningholms Slottsteater (or the Royal Theater of Drottningholm) is among the few 18th-century theaters that still use the original stage machinery a wooden pulley system is operated entirely by hand. The theater closed after King Gustaf III’s death in 1792, but was reopened more than a century later in 1922.

Fun fact: In addition to the original scene-change mechanism, the opera house also features wave, thunder, and sound machines (pictured above) that date back to the 18th century.

Palais Garnier, Paris, France

Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier chandelier

Named after its architect Charles Garnier, who won the public competition for the job in 1861, Palais Garnier’s large stage can host 450 people at once. Designed to be grandiose, Palais Garnier is extravagantly decorated with bronze busts, marble and velvet seating, and an eight-ton chandelier.

Fun fact: There is a water tank beneath Palais Garnier! After many failed attempts to keep groundwater out of the building, Garnier and his team finally installed a cistern to hold it all. Rumors of this eerie “lagoon” spread throughout the city, and inspired one Parisian, Gaston Leroux, to write “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The Metropolitan Opera, New York, United States of America

The Metropolitan Opera (Untapped Cities)

Initially built on Broadway and 39th Street in New York City by a group of wealthy business men in 1883, The Metropolitan Opera moved to the Lincoln Center in 1966 for an upgrade in space. Also known as The Met, the opera house hosts 800,000 people each season and continues to run its successful radio series, the longest-running classical music series in American broadcast history.

Fun fact: Soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan will make her Met debut this season, and will appear as Violetta in Palm Beach Opera’s La traviata, our first blockbuster opera of the season.

Royal Opera House, London, England

Royal Opera House

After two previous theaters were destroyed by fire, the extravagant Royal Opera House opened in 1946 at London’s Convent Garden. By the 1980s, the facilities needed improvement and after the creation of the National Lottery, the Opera House was awarded enough money to expand and transform the theater as we know it today, complete with a smaller auditorium and restaurant.

Did our list leave you inspired? What are some of the opera houses that you’ve visited… and which is your favorite? Leave comments below.

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https://www.metopera.org/season/in-cinemas/
Featured, Opera discussions

Have live opera broadcasts changed the art form?

Previously, we wrote an article about opera in the movies. But what about when the opera IS the movie? Yes, we’re talking about those visually stunning, hyper-produced Live Opera Broadcasts from The Met. Viewed “live” in the local cinema—or even the re-broadcasts in the comfort of your own home—they are definitely a spectacle to behold.

So why are some people less than fond of them? Opera critics can become particularly outspoken when posed this question. Perhaps we can break down their concerns into two general categories; the altered experience of the sound, and the overly-cinematic visuals.

Regarding the sound, the grievance is usually related to the voices being “too even,” and lacking the natural nuances of a live voice that’s heard without amplification, filtering, or a deliberate balancing. As their argument goes, there’s a homogenization of the singers, regardless of their vocal power or physical position on the stage relative to the orchestra, other singers, and the audience.

As for the visual elements, often the opposite is true—the optical experience on the big screen is more exaggerated than it is in an opera house. The close-ups and quick cuts can make it feel a bit too “in your face,” more like an MTV music video production, compared to the in-theater experience. Or something closer a Hollywood Blockbuster in IMAX-3D than an intimate stage performance.

 Live Opera Broadcasts at home
Live Opera Broadcasts in your 21st Century Home Theater. So what about the fate of cinemas?

Live Opera Broadcasts

For better or worse, directors (whether consciously or unconsciously) now pander more to the camera than the live audience for these particular productions. The lens makes you see what it wants you to see, eliminating the spontaneity of something in the corner of the stage catching your attention. You are now a passive observer rather than an active participant—or so goes their argument.

Obviously, some performers are better suited for live stage acting, while others possess the more subtle gestures required in the up-close cinema format. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that these factors now weigh on casting decisions, as well. Do you choose the lead performer who sounds best in the house, or the one that can deliver emotion with a twinkle of the eye or a quiver of the lip when the camera zooms in?

And what of set design? It isn’t hard to imagine that separate criteria would apply if the director is more concerned with the live audience or the HD cameras. Can fully-produced films be far off where the director yells “Action!” and “Cut!” and the scenes are later spliced together in a studio by a talented film editor on loan from Universal or MGM? If your soprano is having a bad day, no problem, just record the tenor’s part today and mix it with the soprano’s portion of the duet later in the week.

We are in the cinematic age where movie theater-quality optical resolution and Dolby surround sound are even available in our homes at an affordable price. Furthermore, virtual reality games, augmented video feeds on our smartphones, and 360-degree photography have increased our appetites for wild visual effects and audio perfection.

Fortunately, no, there is still something quite magical about the transformative power of a live performance, where you sit in your seat for a unique event, never again to be recreated in exactly the same way. You share this experience with other human beings, both in the audience and on the stage, and that’s a sensation that the camera could never capture.

It is the same for a sporting event, isn’t it? There are many that would never watch a baseball game on television. But sitting in the bleachers on a sunny day with a hot dog and cold beer in hand; the energy of that environment is wonderful entertainment on its own, if you’re a sports fan or not. It’s the totality of all your senses that goes beyond merely watching and listening.

And finally, what about the satisfaction of applauding an outstanding performance if the singers don’t even know that you’re cheering for them? Might as well stay home and see what’s on Netflix.

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