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An Evening at the Opera at the METROPOLITAN OPERA RADIO Studio in New York

Thursday, 3 March 2011 , ora 9.08

Interview with Luminița Arvunescu

On March 5th 2011 Radio Romania Music broadcasts a really special 'Evening at the Opera' from 19:50: for the first time in the history of thirteen years of live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Theatre in New York, programme producer Luminița Arvunescu will comment from the Metropolitan International Radio Studio. It is the first time when a radio producer in Romania has commented a MET show from there; moreover, until now only public French and Canadian broadcasting stations proposed to their audience this unusual introduction formula, so appropriate for a contemporary approach. The show will also be broadcast on Radio Romania Cultural.

Luminița Arvunescu, the producer of 'An evening at the Opera', shares some thoughts on the challenges of a live broadcast event of this sort.

Ever since the founding of Radio Romania Music station you have broadcast the opera events from great lyrical theatres, and the first MET live broadcast was in February 1998. Could you please make a short presentation of that journey, in order to understand why the evening of March 5th 2011 is so special?

In fact, the journey we talk about has started in 1995 when 'An Evening at the Opera' was assigned to me, because I criticized the extremely stale manner the opera was presented as a genre and, especially the anachronic broadcasting of events, given such a musically generous environment; I still remember the words of Mrs Mihaela Doboș - who later became the director-founder of the RRM station - when she assigned it to me: 'Here you are, make it different!' What could 'different' mean? A lot, of course. For me it meant just one thing: a programme contemporary with the lyrical performances worldwide focussed on details, present at Romanian débuts, a programme which enjoys challenge and shows fascination with the opera and its artists.

That is, a programme where music is rendered as a live show from the ongoing season of great theatres such as the Scala, Covent Garden in London or the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and a Ž'slideshow' presentation of the performance - that starts with all the important details, everything that was good and nice about the music that followed.

Therefore it was a new format I could not have applied if I did not enjoy an excellent cooperation with the Foreign Musical Exchanges Department, the only section that received current recordings from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) at that time.

So I first broadcast recordings of a few somewhat 'old' performances - but not older than a year from their actual recording! - and then, when the Radio installed its own satellite station (in February 1998), I understood that it was high time I made the following step: to broadcast live a series of shows and thus to make the radio listeners part of that privileged audience, present on a certain evening at the MET, Vienna or Paris, a real opportunity for me as well as for Romanian music lovers to assist in real time to the performances of worldŽs greatest opera artists.

The clear sign that 'An Evening at the Opera' was born under lucky stars was that in just a few days since the installation of the satellite, we found out that a Romanian soloist who had already charmed Europe was to make his début at Metropolitan Opera House in New York - baritone Alexandru Agache in Simon Boccanegra.

The event of the first live broadcast of an international performance had a great advantage under these conditions and the RRM management of that time knew how to put it forward. As far as I was concerned, to be honest I still feel nervous when I remember the actual broadcast (I was in our studio in Bucharest): I am very proud of the interviews I made on that occasion with Alexandru Agache, as well as his stage partner, Placido Domingo, and I must admit it crossed my mind that one day it would have been great to broadcast a performance right from New York.

The advantage of a broadcaster in place is quite obvious. From the listener's point of view what is the advantage for you to be at the MET on March 5th?

During a live broadcast the audience is led to a mental visual representation we cannot render otherwise: and they definitely receive the artistic emotion generated by the show, in a way that will get them even closer to the audience who actually is in the theatre at the same time. Every single listener. At a very small price and with a minimum effort to tune in or access our website, anybody can receive all the details a broadcaster in place can provide: not only the visual but also the backstage secrets as I promise to have additional ears and eyes in order to see and hear all listeners of 'An evening at the Opera'. Besides this advantage, in the studio provided by the Metropolitan Opera International Radio  represented by Mrs Ellen Godfrey I shall have guests for whom the MET is a work place and has become their second home...I do not want to name them yet, but I guarantee the audience a lounge meeting - extremely interesting and somewhat representative for the atmosphere of the famous lyrical New York theatre.

Do you take a technical team with you for the live broadcast?

Only engineer Marius Țoghină - he is experienced in live broadcasts in place and has had a great cooperation so far with the MET engineer. The technical tests have already been done.

The MET is synonym with excellence in opera. How would you recommend the performance of 'Armida' that you chose?

Gioachino Rossini, Renée Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, Antonino Siragusa, Kobie van Rensburg, Barry Banks, John Osborn, Yeghishe Manucharyan - that is EVERYTHING any opera lover could wish for !

As a radio programmes producer what do you think about this first international live broadcast that is done in a foreign studio?

It is a gesture made for the benefit of the listener and in the sense of his becoming familiar with the artistic event, the way Great Music is presented now. Obviously, it can be proposed only by Radio Romania Music and it was almost my duty to assume all the risks and emotions of this broadcast because I have had a whole season of live performances at 'An evening at the Opera' for more than a decade, the most stable and well-trained audience, used to live broadcasts from the Scala, London, Vienna, now Munich and, last but not least the MET... The fact that, before us, only Radio France and Canadian Broadcasting Centre (CBC) broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera International Radio Studio, is another honour and underlines the potential of Radio Romania Music station to be among the best: because I hope with all my heart that this is the beginning of a new approach of the artistic Present, a Present we owe to share with our audience.

Ștefan Costache
Translated by Zenovia Popa and Georgiana Mîndru
MTTLC, Bucharest University