This has been a week of electrifying artistry for me. On Sunday, I saw retiring New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel â€” the best dancer of my experience â€” give one of his last performances in George Balanchine’s haunting “Prodigal Son.” Anyone can be naked on a stage. But to be emotionally naked in front of an audience, that’s something else.
Woetzel, who dances his final performance on Wednesday, was everything you could want in that biblical rebel without a cause â€” defiant, hungry for sensuality and yet hopelessly naive about it, and finally, painfully humble in the acceptance of his comeuppance.
That final scene in which he crawls across the floor on his knees, arms behind his back as the Prokofiev score builds and then climbs into his forgiving father’s arms, well, I had to weep.
Tonight at 8 on WNET-Channel 13,Â you can weep some more as Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu and Mexican tenor RamÃ³n VargasÂ (seen here, courtesy of Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera) sparkle as the doomed lovers in Franco Zeffirelli’s picturesque production ofÂ Giacomo Puccini’s “La BohÃ¨me.” It’s part of “Great Performances at the Met”:http://thirteen.org.
The “Metropolitan Opera”:http://metopera.org has been simulcasting some of its works in HD in area movie theaters and subsequently showing them on “Great Performances.” I saw this “BohÃ¨me” on April 5 at City Center Theaters: Cinema de Lux in White Plains, then watched the DVD of the PBS broadcast the other night. There’s really no comparison. The overwhelming passions of grand opera were made for the big screen. Whereas TV constricts opera production in more ways than one. It diminishes the images and it edits down the interviews and background documentaries that fill operatic intermissions in movie theaters.
On the small screen, the closeups look less dramatic and the details â€” such as a floral pattern on a seamstress’ dress â€” are lost.
(Sometimes opera is better on TV. I loved the advent-calendar design of the Met’s marvelously grim “Peter Grimes,” with its continually opening and shutting doors, which apparently was not as fulfilling dramatically onstage.)
Having said all this, as we know from all those pledge drives, without PBS, Thirteen and programs like “Great Performances,” we’d be culturally poorer.
So enjoy “BohÃ¨me,” and if you miss it tonight, catch the rebroadcast at noon Sunday as part of “SundayArts Showcase”.
Then stay tuned for more about the June 26 telecast of “La Fille du RÃ©giment,” with French soprano Natalie Dessay and Peruvian tenor Juan Diego FlÃ³rez in a comic tale of romantic hijinks on the high Cs.
It’s as much “A Night at the Opera” as a night at the opera.