The Metropolitan Opera Gets SIRIUS About Its Music

by Jon Minners

How many times have you sat there listening to Fergie’s London Bridge and wondered to yourself, damn, I wish I could just switch channels and move to the beat of a different drum; maybe Mozart; a little Madama Butterfly?  Of course you have.  I know I do and now there is a station just for the opera or classical music lover in all of us who gets excited when they hear a Beethoven beat backing a Nas song.  The originals and close renditions are just a satellite radio away. 

It was recently announced that the Metropolitan Opera and SIRIUS Satellite Radio have agreed to a multi-year agreement to create Metropolitan Opera Radio, the definitive radio channel for opera lovers, replacing the stale Classic Voices channel.  The newest edition debuted on SIRIUS on Monday, September 25th, with a live broadcast of the Met's opening night gala performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, conducted by music director James Levine and directed by Anthony Minghella.

The move comes on the heels of the Metropolitan Opera's landmark union negotiations that provide new opportunities for distribution to larger audiences via digital media. In an historic first, this season the Met will use advanced distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world. Beginning on December 30, the Met will transmit six of its performances live in high definition into movie theaters in the US, Canada and Europe that have been equipped with high-definition projection systems and satellite dishes.

"This is a significant step in our plans to use digital technology to relay our extraordinary content," said Peter Gelb, the Met's new general manager. "I look forward to working with SIRIUS to expand their listenership to include opera lovers throughout the US and Canada."

The exclusive new SIRIUS satellite radio music channel will broadcast an unprecedented number of live Metropolitan Opera performances each week throughout the Met's entire season.  An average of four broadcasts with Saturday matinee performances will be presented to bring the Met right into your living room, car or office. And just like a DVD, the performances will be enhanced with live interviews and dynamic intermission programs. In addition, more than hundreds of archival performances from throughout the Met's 75-year history will be heard on SIRIUS Channel 85.

Along for the ride will be a familiar face for those who have enjoyed listening to syndicated broadcasts of Metropolitan Opera programming in the past.  Margaret Juntwait, the host of the Saturday matinee Metropolitan Opera Radio broadcasts, will be the announcer for the new channel's programs. She joins the Met full-time later this month, having hosted its nationally syndicated Saturday matinee broadcasts since 2004.

She will be introducing a slate of programming that will include Academy Award-winning film director Anthony Minghella's new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly to open the season, and the world premiere of Tan Dun's The First Emperor on December 21, directed by Zhang Yimou with Placido Domingo in the title role. An abridged, English-language version of Julie Taymor's hit production of Mozart's The Magic Flute will inaugurate a new annual series of winter holiday family entertainment beginning December 29.  Wasn’t there once an adaptation of that production that introduced the world to the Smurfs?  Oh, those loveable blue creatures. 

Anyways, a smurfin good time will be had by all opera lovers stemming from the announcement.

“With Metropolitan Opera Radio, we will bring opera lovers the best performances of our day and an unparalleled and definitive collection of historic broadcasts," said Scott Greenstein, SIRIUS president for the entertainment and sports division. "SIRIUS' broad reach and superb digital quality sound make us the perfect vehicle to help Peter Gelb and the Met fulfill their mission to both super serve existing opera lovers and create new opera fans nationwide."

It’s an exciting time for everyone. I know I have goose bumps, but if you want to know more for yourself, check out http://www.sirius.com and http://www.metopera.org.  Rock on Amadeus

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