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Hitting a new high

Brownlee Opera is big business! The Metropolitan Opera, winding up its season of simulcasts, reports that a new record has been set. It sold 2.2 million tickets to its live opera transmissions this season.

That is 400,000 more than the season before, the Associated Press reports.

The most recent telecast was Saturday's broadcast of Rossini's "Armida," starring soprano Renee Fleming and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, pictured at left. An estimated 105,000 in North America watched it, and so did an additional 84,000 in Europe and Latin America.

And the numbers are still not all in. The AP story adds: "With delayed telecasts in Asia, Latin America, Oceania and South Africa, plus repeats in North America and Europe, the Met expects its 'Armida' audience to reach 250,000."

This is a victory for Peter Gelb, the man at the helm of the Met. Gelb has been spearheading the telecasts for four years now. "When I took over this position, I was determined to use every means I could to get opera into some greater part of the consciousness of the mainstream public," he told The Buffalo News several months ago.

The Buffalo area simulcasts, seen at the Regal theaters on Elmwood and Transit, have proven tremendously popular. They routinely sell out well in advance. Repeat broadcasts on Wednesdays also draw crowds.

The sales figures make me wonder if there is too much hand-wringing over the age of most operas, the fact that many that are the most popular are 100 or 200 or even 300 years old. We don't fret about the age of Shakespeare plays, do we? And no one looks at "The Canterbury Tales" and says, "Let's stop reading this. It's kind of old."

Maybe we should all just relax and enjoy the show.

You can catch "Armida" as an encore transmission at 6:30 p.m. May 19. Call the theater for info (the Elmwood Regal is 871-0950, and Transit is 633-8918) or get tickets online. Eleven Met simulcasts are set for next season, beginning with Wagner's "Das Rheingold" on Oct. 9.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman




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