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The Met to be on display in a big way

Leave the tuxes and gowns in the closet. Aria lovers need not dress up for the Metropolitan Opera's Dec. 30 matinee performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."

Nor must they pay the Met's steep ticket prices -- or travel to New York City for that matter.

To see the production, simply drive to Regal Cinemas' Imax Theatre on Transit Road in Lancaster, fork over $18 -- or $15 per child -- load up on popcorn and slide into a seat before 1:30 p.m.

That is when the first of six Met productions will be broadcast live via satellite this season in moviehouses across the United States and Canada. The 100-minute English-language version of "The Magic Flute," telecast in high definition, will be directed by Broadway choreographer Julie Taymor and conducted by Met Music Director James Levine.

The cast will inclue Ying Huang as Pamina, Matthew Polenzani as Tamino, Nathan Gunn as Papageno, Erika Miklosa as the Queen of t he Night and Rene Pap as Srastro.

Other programs in the series include Bellini's "I Puritani" Jan. 6; the world premiere of Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" Jan. 13, featuring legendary tenor Placido Domingo as the emperor; Tcvhaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" Feb. 24, featuring soprano Renee Fleming in the role of Tatiana for the first time at the Met; Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" March 24; and Puccini's "Il Trittico" April 28. All performances will start at 1:30 in Regal's Imax theater.

Anyone following the career of Cheektowaga's Valerian Ruminski will have a rooting interest in "I Puritani." The bass baritone, who previously appeared as Zuniga in a Met production of "Carmen," will sing the role of Lord Walton. In July, Ruminski was the star of an Opera Night program at Artpark with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and he has sung the National Anthem at Sabres games. He is scheduled to give a recital at the Lancaster Opera House May 27 in celebration of his 40th birthday.

"Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD" was conceived by Peter Gelb, the Met's new general manager, as a way to reach new audiences by providing "a front row seat to the spectacle of live opera."

The initiative is being undertaken in the U.S. in partnership with National CineMedia, the marketing arm of Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theatres and Cinemark USA, and in Canada with Cineplex Entertainment, owner of the Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy and Famous Players theaters. "The Magic Flute" also will be beamed to several moviehouses in the United Kingdom.

The performances will be shown in 51 U.S. cities including Buffalo. Video recordings of each production will be televised one month after the live performance on the Public Broadcasting System's "Great Performances" series and audio recordings will be broadcast on "Metropolitan Radio on Sirius," the Met's new 24-hour satellite radio channel.

The Met's plan is sure to hearten buffs who have gone without locally produced, full-scale opera since the 1998 demise of Greater Buffalo Opera Company. Opera Unlimited has attempted to fill the void on a smaller scale.

For more information about the upcoming theater series visit www.metoperafamily.org/hdlive.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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