On Saturday Marcus Theatres begins the fourth season of "The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD." Now a welcome annual fixture at Point Cinema, these high-definition video transmissions parallel the familiar radio broadcasts.
The Met has made some stumbles, like the gimmicky visual fragmentation of Tristan und Isolde two seasons ago. But backstage peeks and singer interviews during intermissions work well. Above all, the giant-screen projections simulate the Met ambience so vividly that video theater audiences often add their spontaneous applause. Augmenting the live Saturday-afternoon transmissions are "encore" repeats.
Five of nine scheduled operas will be in new productions. The first, at noon on Saturday, Oct. 10 (repeat Oct. 28, 6:30 p.m.), is already controversial: Luc Bondy's reconception of Puccini's Tosca, bypassing stage directions and stressing eroticism. Super-diva Karita Mattila sings the title role; Marcello Álvarez is Cavaradossi, and George Gagnidze is Scarpia.
On Oct. 24 (repeat Nov. 11) comes Verdi's Ada, with Violeta Urmana, Dolora Zajick and Johan Botha. There's more spectacle in Franco Zeffirelli's lavish staging of Puccini's Turandot (Nov. 7; repeat the 18th). Maria Guleghina is in the title role, plus Marcello Giordani and Samuel Ramey.
For another new production, of Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (Dec. 19; repeat Jan. 6), conductor James Levine, presumably recovered from his now-impending surgery, will lead Joseph Calleja as Hoffmann, Anna Netrebko as his beloved Antonia, and Alan Held as all four villains. The returned Levine should also conduct Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier (Jan. 9; repeat the 27th): Renée Fleming as the Marschallin, Susan Graham as Octavian and Christine Schäfer as Sophie, joined by Thomas Allen as Baron Ochs.
Having enjoyed the Madison Opera's presentation of Bizet's Carmen next month, we can judge the Met's new production (Jan. 16; repeat Feb. 3), including Elina Garanca as the Gypsy, Barbara Frittoli as Michaëla, Roberto Alagna as Don José and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Toreador. Simon Boccanegra (Feb. 6; repeat the 24th), now recognized as among Verdi's greatest operas, occasions Placido Domingo's baritonal debut as the title character, supported by Marcello Giordani and James Morris.
A starry galaxy for Ambroise Thomas' rarity, Hamlet (March 27; repeat April 14): Simon Keenlyside, Natalie Dessay, Jennifer Larmore and James Morris. A Met premiere for one of Rossini's "serious" operas, Armida (May 1; repeat the 19th), pits Renée Fleming against a battery of six tenors.
Past enthusiasm has meant sellout houses, so you should consider advance ticket purchase at the box office or on the web.