SUTTONS BAY — Opera has arrived at The Bay Community Theatre.
The Bay showed “Don Pasquale” — a Royal Opera House production — Nov. 20. The screening was a recorded version of an Oct. 24 live performance by The Royal Opera, which originally was simulcast in Europe.
Located in London, the Royal Opera House is home to The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet. Prince Charles is patron of the Royal Opera house and the Royal Opera, while Queen Elizabeth II is patron of The Royal Ballet.
“We got a number of requests from people in the community when the State Theatre was no longer showing operas from the (New York Metropolitan Opera), so we looked into that to see how we could do it,” said Sherry Edwards, a member of The Bay’s board of directors.
The State Theatre in downtown Traverse City began live-streaming the Met Opera: Live in HD series in December 2007, but this year discontinued the offering.
Attendance dropped more than 50 percent over the years the State Theatre simulcast the series, said Meg Weichman.
Weichman is creative director for the Traverse City Film Festival, which owns the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay.
“With the amount of the ticket sales the Met takes, it wasn’t financially viable or viable for our scheduling and the sustainability of our organization,” she said.
The Met and the company that broadcasts its performances — Fathom Events — take 75 percent of ticket sales, the theater has to show all 10 of the Live in HD performances and there’s no local control over the dates or times the operas are shown, Weichman said.
“It really ties up a huge amount of your schedule so you have no flexibility for movies that also come with very strict conditions of how you can play those,” she said.
Edwards and fellow board member Larry Domine both cited Fathom’s restrictions when asked why not show the Met series.
Knowing there was a strong desire in the community for opera, the board contacted Trafalger Releasing — the company that broadcasts Royal Opera House productions — and also formed a cultural advisory committee comprised of community members who are passionate about opera, Edwards said.
“The people who care about the opera are very enthusiastic about it,” she said. “They have a lot more passion for it than just a casual patron would.”
Trafalger takes 50 percent of ticket sales and doesn’t require any advanced fees or guarantee amount, Domine said.
Domine represents the board of directors on the cultural advisory committee.
All the performances — operas and ballets — from the 2019-20 season are available to The Bay and, because the performances are recordings, they have control over when the screenings take place, he said. That flexibility helps, especially since what’s shown at The Bay has to be planned out a few months in advance, Domine said.
“There was a community need and we worked on coming up with a solution and we believe we have a solution,” Domine said.
Like the Met Opera: Live in HD series, the Royal Opera House productions share background information and have interviews with cast and crew before the start of the performance and during the intermission, he said.
That particular fact is one T. Michael Jackson, of Traverse City, said he’s glad to know.
“It just gives you a whole new feeling for all the things that go into the opera,” Jackson said. “It’s a very complicated, very intriguing form of entertainment and music. It’s really interesting to see everything that goes into it.”
Jackson, a member of the State Theatre and of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, said in a previous interview that he was disappointed at the State’s decision not to show the Met series. On Tuesday, he said he hopes the program will return to the State next year.
Jackson said he’s not very familiar with the Royal Opera House, but is sure they’re just as good as the Met and hopes to attend some of the screenings.
“I’m just thankful that they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s nice that they see the cultural opportunities and it’s nice to have that cultural outreach in our area.”