That evening, the Metropolitan Opera's season opener, a new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly by filmmaker Anthony Minghella (best known for The English Patient), will be simulcast live onto the giant outdoor screen at One Times Square. Broadway will be closed to vehicles from 42nd to 45th Streets to provide space for 650 cushioned seating places plus standing room. The simulcast, which begins at 6:30 pm, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.
Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, told The New York Times that the September 25 Butterfly "marks the first live performance to be simulcast in Times Square."
The Met will also simulcast the opening-night Butterfly onto a screen in Lincoln Center Plaza. Tickets, which are free, will be required for the plaza; they will be available at the house's box office on the day before the event.
The Metropolitan Opera's media-savvy new general manager, Peter Gelb, has an additional plan for getting major press coverage of the opening night (and, by extension, the house's activities in general): There will be an Academy Awards-style red carpet leading through the plaza, and celebrities on the way into the performance will be stopped and interviewed by TV and radio journalist Daljit Dhaliwal, with the questions and answers broadcast onto the outdoor screens.
Will there really be celebrities? The Times reports that Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anjelica Huston, Sean Connery, Iman and David Bowie, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have all told the Met that they'll be coming.
In answer to those who might criticize the Met for choosing Dateline Hollywood / People magazine-style glitz over art for art's sake, Gelb stressed to the Times that he wants to end the "isolation" of the house — and of the art form: "It's essential for the broader public to know what's going on inside," he said. "I want to demonstrate that the Met is interested in being part of mainstream society and contemporary culture."
He also pointed out that, for the first time in 20 years, he is having the season open not with a gala of excerpts but with a complete, fully-staged opera.
Minghella's staging was a huge critical and popular success when it was presented at English National Opera in November 2005; in an opera world where productions are often planned several years in advance, Gelb acted quickly to secure it for the Met's 2006-07 season opening.
The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, directed by Anthony Minghella, conducted by Met music director James Levine (in his first appearance there since his shoulder injury last January), and starring Cristina Gallardo-Domê¢s and Marcello Giordani, opens on Monday, September 25; there will be 12 more performances, conducted by Asher Fisch, through November 18. Details and tickets are available at www.metopera.org.