European opera and ballet coming to Snellville cinema

Snellville is about to become metro Atlanta’s latest opera and ballet hot spot, offering performances distinct from any other in the region.

Opera? Snellville?

Snellville 12 Theatres has hooked up with Emerging Cinema, a specialty film distribution company, to broadcast live opera and ballet performances from Europe.

The series’ first event, Dec. 7 -- a Tuesday at 11 a.m. -- will be Wagner’s “Die Walküre” from the season-opening performance at Milan’s greatest opera house, La Scala.

Dale Hurst, the marketing director for Carmike Cinema, a national movie-theater chain that owns Snellville 12, says the community fits the target audience. “We’ve tried opera in high-definition movie theaters in other smaller communities, from south Texas to suburban Pittsburgh and Chattanooga, and it’s done well for us.”

Hurst added, “You couldn’t tie me to a chair to watch opera, but the movie-theater performance I saw surprised me. It was ‘Carmen’ from Barcelona, and it was fairly interesting to watch.”

Opera in movie theaters is growing quickly. Over the past five years, the pioneering Metropolitan Opera has broadcast live performances from New York into high-definition theaters across the world. The number of screens showing the Met's performances has expanded to some 1,500 internationally -- including 13 in metro Atlanta.

Notably, most of the high-definition broadcasts are in the suburbs, or exurbs, because the technology exists only in newer theaters. Across the Atlanta region, the Met broadcasts often sell out in towns from Alpharetta and Lawrenceville in the north to Morrow in the south. (The effects on local live performances by the Atlanta Opera, in terms of ticket sales and donations, are still under debate.)

But the Met’s “Live in HD” series is on Saturday afternoons, and opera fans have been listening to live Met radio broadcasts in that exact time slot for generations.

In contrast, Snellville 12’s “Die Walküre” is scheduled for a weekday morning. (La Scala’s Wagner, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and produced by Guy Cassiers, is different from the Met’s Wagner, also broadcast this season.)

“The excitement of the live performance is part of the experience, whenever you can get it,” Hurst said. He noted that each live broadcast will be followed by a rebroadcast eight days later, in the evening.

“We’re building audience for opera and ballet and know that there’s interest out there," Hurst said. "From what I’ve seen, the communities are very appreciative.”

Here is the schedule for the Snellville 12 Theatres’ opera and ballet in cinema (Check www.carmike.com for more details.):

  • Wagner's "Die Walküre." Dec. 7: Live opera: opening night at Teatro alla Scala, Milan
  • "The Nutcracker." Dec. 19: Live ballet: Bolshoi Ballet Theatre, Moscow
  • Adam's "Giselle." Jan. 19: Live ballet: from the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, London
  • Leoncavallo's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Mascagni's "Pagliacci." January 20: Live opera: from the La Scala in Milan

Pierre Ruhe is the classical music critic of www.artscriticatl.com.