Opera and ballet aficionados will have the rare opportunity to watch live performances by the prestigious Metropolitan Opera  and the Bolshoi Ballet in Lebanon from Oct. 5 until May 10. This outstanding collaboration – organized by Empire Premiere in association with French production company Pathe Live – will bring 10 opera shows to Lebanon, along with six performances by the renowned Russian ballet troupe. During these performances, spanning eight months, Lebanese spectators will be able to sit comfortably in the renovated Empire Premiere cinemas in Sodeco and witness the beauty and grace of ballet dancers and opera singers, transmitted live.
Last year, The Met’s live season was transmitted  to 54 countries and watched by 2.5 million spectators in cinemas all around the world.
A news conference given Friday at Empire Premiere gathered Tancredede la Morinerie, a representative from the French Cultural Institute; CEO of Empire Cinemas Mario Haddad; and opera specialist Lama Tyan. They highlighted the exclusive nature of the project and their hope that these performances would constitute a whole new experience for Lebanese audiences.
This will be the first project of its kind in the country, they explained. Haddad revealed that the organizers had faced some difficulties in getting The Met’s approval, but that they were finally able to show that many Lebanese are great connoisseurs of opera and ballet. He emphasized that the fact that there was no opera house in Lebanon had not prevented Lebanese fans from becoming familiar with and knowledgeable about the art form.
One of the many interesting aspects of this project is the fact that movie theater audiences will witness live what happens before the show (the preparations of the performers, for instance) and during the interludes – something the spectators in the opera don’t see.
Tickets are already on sale at Empire Premiere, Haddad announced. A single ticket costs just over $50 – a bit expensive but still minimal compared to the price of a ticket to the opera house. A subscription for the whole season is also available, at a cost of $900 for the 16 screenings.
Although some other journalists present at the conference had trouble understanding the concept, the original show will take place around 1 p.m. overseas and will be transmitted live in Beirut at around 8 p.m. local time.
The season will open Oct. 5 with “Eugene Onegin.” Starring Mariusz Kwiecien and Anna Netrebko as the eponymous characters, this opera tells the story of a man who loses the love of his life and kills his best friend. Nicknamed “La Bellissima,” Netrebko is one of the outstanding sopranos of our time.
The first ballet to be screened will be “Le Corsaire,” an adventurous story about a pirate trying to ravish a woman named Medora, who has been sold to a slave dealer. Under the choreography of Marius Petipa, this ballet will most probably plunge the Lebanese audience into the Bolshoi dance ambiance.
Who hasn’t heard of the gladiator Spartacus? If you haven’t, then you must go to the Nov. 18 screening. Performed by the Bolshoi Corps de Ballet, this performance tells the unique story of Spartacus and Phrygia being condemned to slavery and of Spartacus’s rebellion.
Every little girl knows the story of Sleeping Beauty. This fairy tale – originally written by Charles Perrault – will be danced by the Bolshoi troupe  and transmitted live in Empire Premiere Dec. 23, with David Hallberg as Prince Desire and Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora.
“La Boheme” and “Cosi Fan Tutte” will invade theater screens April 5 and 26, 2014. Lebanese viewers will be immersed in 19th-century Paris and 18th-century Naples through these two love stories.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Golden Age,” Gioachino Rossini’s operatic drama “La Cenerentola,” Jules Massenet’s “Werther” and Bolshoi Ballet’s “Lost Illusions” are also scheduled to be screened.
Through this collaborative project, Beirut’s cultural and artistic scene will be brought to a whole new level and local audiences will have the unique opportunity to be part of exceptional live transmissions of performances by these two world-famous ballet and opera houses.
The Metropolitan Opera and the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema will take place in Empire Sodeco from Oct. 5 to May 10. For more information, visit empirepremiere.com  or call 01-616-707 for ticketing.
By Chirine Lahoud
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