Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Best Seats in the House

Last Sunday, the New York Times published the article Amplifying the Classics by Anthony Tommasini. This prompted a discussion between friends where the best seats are for sound. We all agreed that the use of microphones would be a detriment to the experience but not one of us shared the same opinion about the best seat. My opinion is that that if you are there to see the singers (or just to be seen) then the orchestra is for you. If you are there to see and hear then the best seats in the house are in the balcony or the family circle, where the vocal sound rises above the orchestra and there is no muffling from levels above. The family circle, my usual choice, is on the fifth level from the orchestra level - it seems impossibly high and far away from the stage which must be at least several hundred feet away. From these family cirlce seats, you get a full picture of the grandness of the house. The sound rises so beautifully that when I first hear the overture, it is as if my ears are hearing for the first time. My ears then adjust again when I hear the voices. I recently sat near a blind woman at An American Tragedy. At first I felt sad for her because she was missing the acting and sets but then I realized that she was probably hearing so much more than most of us because her senses were focused on the sound. The bottom line of opera is the purity of the sound. The sound at the Met is completely pure and without the static of artificial amplication. It is a testament to the skill of the singers and the acoustical superiority at the Metropolitan Opera House.

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