‘Opera Buddies’ Complete Their Pandemic Journey


Carolyn Starry & Marion Chalat. Photo by J. Cox.

Carolyn Starry & Marion Chalat achieved a remarkable goal during the pandemic — they watched 497 operas streamed live by the Metropolitan Opera. The final opera screened at the end of July. The opera is expected to return live and in person next month.

Carolyn wrote about the experience for us.

My Opera Buddy, Marion, and I are happy to have been a part of the dedicated global audience for almost 500 consecutive nights. It is hard to believe that the screenings have covered a huge operatic repertory and more than four decades of Met history, including 112 different operas and performances dating from 1977 to 2020. All of these performances were free to viewers circling the globe, including all 50 of the USA states and 152 nations.

It’s been a tough year for all of us with all the restrictions because of COVID, and, even experiencing COVID FATIGUE, we soldiered on continuing to watch the Metropolitan Opera’s nightly “streams.”

Sunday, July 25, 2021, WEEK 71 was the last opera (#497): Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.” This was the 7th time it was streamed. Many of these operas have been repeated during these past 16 months. Some with different casts and some with older productions. The opera that places #1 in views is Puccini’s “Tosca” at 13! Second place goes to Puccini’s “La Boheme” which clocks in at 12. In 3rd Place is Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” at 10 views! It is hard to imagine after all this time, night after night, that it finally came to a close. We have kept a record of every opera we have watched and have maintained “book reports.” We both have subscriptions and look forward to, once again, sharing the excitement of live performances on the greatest stage in the world.

Listening to radio performances on Saturday presented on WQXR-FM, versus, watching on a laptop versus attending a live performance are all very different.

When you listen to opera on the Saturday afternoon broadcast from WQXR-FM, NYC, it takes you to another place and time from the majestic music of the orchestra to the lyrical passages sung by the performers. You have to visualize the setting — see the characters inter-acting and feel their emotions with the different timbres or colors of their voices.

When you attend a live opera, you see the entire stage and interaction of all the characters in real time. You enter their world with the unique sets, costumes & makeup, choreography and lighting throughout that give a completeness when you are “in the house.” The arias, duets, trios, quartets and ensembles come to life. The acoustics are excellent and, even with 3,800 seats, they are heard (or project) all the way to the back of the Met Opera House.

There are negatives and positives when watching an opera up close and personal on a laptop. The positives: You see the conductor conveying the emotions of the music directly to the musicians with the wave of his baton — no matter the meter — 2/4, 4/4, 6/8, etc., using his body language with facial expressions to denote softness or intensity — the orchestra becomes one. However, the streams we watch are from films or HD productions. Sometimes there is too much focus on just the face & top of a gown which takes up the whole screen and you miss what is going on around them with other characters, etc.

Whether you attend an opera, ballet, symphonic orchestra or Broadway show, it is subjective. One person may hear, see or interpret something totally different! Is their voice well suited for the role; is there chemistry between the leads; are the costumes appropriate, etc. And, that is great — Discussion is welcomed.

We don’t go to the opera to criticize. We go to enjoy the fantasy of the production — the singers — the chorus — the orchestra and the magic of the moment and come out renewed.

Both of us are vaccinated and have downloaded the New York State Excelsior Pass Wallet into our cellphones and also carry a printed copy. When all the theater arts are open for business, we are ready to show proof of vaccination and take our subscription seats!!!

These past 16 months have been an fascinating journey — every night we had a purpose — to watch an opera and share our thoughts. We never dreamed it would turn into such a great friendship increasing our appreciation for this high art called “Opera!”

ART | 5 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      Truly impressive, ladies! May you enjoy many more performances.

    2. Carly says:

      Carolyn, this made me smile to read. I hope you enjoy every minute of your first night back at the opera!

    3. LivableCity says:

      Bravissima! It is because of love like this that the incredible weaving of performing arts that becomes opera can continue at all. May you treasure many nights to come in that shared live space. May this city continue to be a place where arts old and new can thrive: not just on the roads and bridges and vaccines we need from policy makers, but human infrastructure that transports us in other ways.

    4. Catherine Wald says:

      I love this article, and wonder if you could help me get in touch with Carolyn and Marion.

    5. Denny Levy says:

      Dear Carolyn and Marion, I am so impressed at your dedication to the opera and watching so many performances. James Levine lived in our building for a time and we used to open our backdoor to hear him rehearse with an opera singer on the floor above. Your interest in opera is what keeps it going not just in NYC but globally.
      I volunteer at the MET Museum with Marion and hope to see you there soon. Best.