In early July, the Grand Teton Music Festival whets its audience’s appetite with a taste of things that could be coming.
With the help of Maestro Donald Runnicles and the Festival Orchestra, guest vocalists Meechot Marrero, Sunnyboy Dladla and Thomas Lehman, sang a selection of solos and duets from Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” one of the best-known operas by one of the best-known composers of opera.
Runnicles, whose long history with opera includes leading the San Francisco Opera for 17 years and who since 2009 has served as music director of the august Deutsche Oper Berlin, provided some connective plot material between the performances, sketching out the plot. But he also announced to the full house at Walk Festival Hall the organization’s plans in the coming years to dip its toes — and maybe even to wade in waist-deep or deeper — into presenting more opera, if not full-scale productions at least semi-theatrical performances of highlights or maybe even complete librettos.
“We are anxious to explore Donald’s incredible history and reputation in that world,” said Jeff Counts, the festival’s general manager. “We’re looking for ways to explore his accomplishments and achievements in that world, looking for ways to do that.”
So it is no coincidence, Counts said, that the festival is set to launch its 2019-20 season of “The Met: Live in HD” with an encore screening of the famed New York City opera house’s beloved performance of “The Barber of Seville” from the mid-2000s, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Jackson Hole Twin Cinemas.
“We thought it was the perfect way to connect the summer [season] to the winter,” Counts said.
“The Barber of Seville,” or “Il barbiere di Siviglia,” subtitled “The Useless Precaution,” is classic opera, a comedy based on a play of the same title by the French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. It premiered in February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome, a wee bit over 30 years after another opera based on a Beaumarchais play, Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” though the action of “Barber” actually precedes that of “Figaro.”
A 19th-century rom-com, “Barber” tells of Almaviva, a handsome young count, who is in love with the beautiful Rosina, ward of the curmudgeonly Dr. Bartolo, who plans to marry Rosina once she is old enough and thus appropriate her dowry. Almaviva turns to his former servant Figaro, who as the village barber is privy to all the gossip of Seville, for help insuring an introduction and — well, we wouldn’t dare give away the ending, but this is a romantic comedy, so you can probably imagine.
Full of many arias and duets that many opera novices will recognize (thanks in no small part of an unforgettable Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd cartoon), “Barber” is fun, funny, raucous, a little bawdy and fast-paced, with beautiful costumes and sets to evoke 18th-century Seville, Spain, and particular emphasis on the comedy.
This favorite Metropolitan Opera production — “beloved,” even, Counts said — stars Joyce DiDonato as Rosina, Juan Diego Flórez as County Almaviva and Peter Mattei as the hero Figaro. And while there’s no substitute for a live performance in an opera hall, as the Met has said many times, these high-definition broadcasts bring audiences closer to the action than is otherwise possible.
“With the multi-camera aspect, you’re never far away from the thing you should be paying attention to,” said Counts, who has performed in the pit and worked with Utah Opera as the longtime general manager of the Utah Symphony. “Everyone can’t afford a great seat in an opera house, or even a seat that might have parts obscured, but with all these cameras working,” viewers can see even the subtlest gesture or facial expression of the performers.
“Also what fun is the host,” Counts said. Met stars lead viewers behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Opera House for interviews with the performers and directors. In between acts, the cameras capture the stage crew hustling to switch out sets and prepare for the next half. “That access to behind the scenes and the intimacy of where the camera takes your eye, you don’t have to buy the best possible seat.”
And with the GTMF series now screening at Jackson Hole Twin Cinema, all the seats really are best, especially with the theater’s new, cushy reclining seats.
“Opera can be a long sit,” Counts said. “So that’s a nice perk,” not to mention a movie theater-quality projector and sound system.
With only about 100 seats in the cinema, this year it’s more likely than ever that Met HD events will sell out. But the new system there also allows patrons to pick their seats and pay for their tickets in advance.
The festival’s “Met: Live in HD” season runs through April, with screenings on the second Thursday of each month. This winter will bring more old favorites like Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” as well as uncommon spectacles like Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” and Handel’s “Agrippina.”
For tickets and details, visit GTMF.org, or call 733-1128. ￼