Placido Domingo greets fans at outdoor screening of 'Il Postino'
The crowds came out for Los Angeles Opera's free outdoor screening of "Il Postino" on Saturday evening at California Plaza in downtown L.A. And they got a special treat in the form of tenor Plácido Domingo, who appeared at the end of the event to express his gratitude to those who came.
Saturday's screening marks the first time that L.A. Opera has attempted such an outdoor event. The screening was organized by the opera company and Grand Performances, the downtown L.A. organization that puts on free cultural and film-related evenings for the public.
"Il Postino" drew an estimated 2,500 people Saturday, according to Michael Alexander, the head of Grand Performances. The Spanish-language opera, based on the hit 1995 Miramax film, is a world-premiere production, written and composed by Daniel Catán.
Much of the audience gathered around two jumbo-sized screens in California Plaza. There were also several smaller wide-screen television screens placed along the periphery of the space.
The performance that audiences watched was recorded earlier that day at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Six high-definition Sony cameras captured the action on stage, according to Moshe Barkat, the owner of post-production house Modern VideoFilm. The footage was then rushed to the film company's facilities in Burbank, where crews added a video introduction by Domingo. Modern VideoFilm has worked with L.A .Opera on a number of past productions, including "La Traviata," starring Renée Fleming, and "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," starring Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald.
Saturday's screening of "Il Postino" offered audiences a satisfying mix of close-ups and long shots. From a technical standpoint, the screening appeared to go smoothly, though there was an intermittent audio hiccup that organizers were unable to diagnose during the event.
Domingo, who performed in the opera as poet Pablo Neruda, was the biggest star of the evening. The tenor arrived at the end of the screening to a standing ovation. "It's very emotional that you are all here at this time of night," he said to the crowd. "It's wonderful that L.A., which has so many Hispanic people, can have the world premiere of an opera by a Mexican composer."
Saturday's screening drew a diverse, multilingual audience of dedicated opera-goers as well as opera neophytes.
"I really love it. The close-ups and the long shots are something you don't get during a live performance," said Arthur Macbeth, a regular L.A . Opera patron who lives in Mt. Washington.
Sitting high up in California Plaza were Claudia Melara and Ramsey Fuentes, who hail from El Salvador and live in downtown L.A. Neither had ever attended an L.A. Opera performance before Saturday.
"It was fabulous. It's a really good idea," said Melara after the screening. They said that they would attend any future opera screenings, "without a doubt."
Catán, who also attended the event, said in an interview that the free screening was important for extending the reach of the operatic art form. "This kind of setting allows people to feel comfortable. They don't feel intimidated by the protocol of going to the opera," he said.
Also on the scene was tenor Charles Castronovo, who played the title role of the mailman. He said watching himself perform was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. "It's a lot of fun," he said. "At the same time, I'm thinking to myself that I want to change this, this and this about my performance."
"Il Postino" will screen Monday evening at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.
-- David Ng
Photos: Plácido Domingo greets the fans at the screening of "Il Postino"; the scene at California Plaza. Credit: Robert Millard
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