Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Third Committee Member

Michael Socolow

Abstract

For this thesis, I ask why people are coming to the Grand, a local independent cinema in Maine, for the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD simulcasts? I take the reader through historical and critical context of the program and the Grand along with framing the simulcasts as either media events, phenomenological experiences and/or performance rituals for audience members. Finally, I ask how can this research inform the Grand about its programming decisions? To answer these questions, a mixed method approach was employed. I am conducting a study composed of several different essays that explore the research question from different points of view. I will employ several sources of evidence, including interview, participant observation, historical sources, critical literature on Live in HD, and media theory. The chapters move from historical to critical context of the program, to looking at the audience experience as a possible media event. After looking at the larger universal frameworks, I finish by investigating specific subjective audience member accounts and how the program influences attendance. Why people are attending the opera simulcasts from the Met in New York at the Grand in Ellsworth is complicated. Grand opera goers are drawn to the simulcasts for the love of the music, the tradition, the grandeur, the performances that are larger than life and the communal witnessing amongst other opera lovers. It is the Saturday afternoon ritual that brings audiences back. It is the program as a potential media event that provides an arena for simultaneity, sociability and engagement with the Grand audience. It is the behind the scenes programming that draws the audiences curiosity to become more intimate with their idols. While there is much lost in transmission, there is also much gained such as democratizing opera to this small art house in Ellsworth, Maine. However, it all comes back to the quality content and the communal experience of that content that ties it all together. Audiences love the music of the orchestra and the focus on the voice as a musical instrument that can drive a story. They walk out feeling like they have learned something about themselves and the humanity of the world. And they do this while in the company of their neighbors in whom they share a communal ritual of digital opera going in the 21st century. Audiences know that they are not attending the opera, but they feel like they are, and in some ways it is even better than being in the actual opera house. It is both ritual and natural. It is not a ritual. It is not natural. It is caught in between. It is the liminality of the interstitial moments that draws the audience member in and holds them there like Euridice in the Underworld. The Met and the Grand should never look back, or else they would lose an audience at both houses.

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