26 February 2007

My Onegin at the movies ruined by incompetence

I've waited a couple of days to say a few things about the Eugene Onegin world simulcast because I'm still seething in anger at the technical "experts" of the Regal Citrus Park movieplex in Tampa, Florida. During Act I, the surround sound balance was slightly distorted, with the side speakers pumping out slightly higher volumes than the front and back speakers. The effect was to hear significant fluttering of any directional sound, giving greater prominence to the separation of violins (on the left side) and the brass (to the right), as well as exaggerating the relative positions of the singers on stage. The problem, these "experts" diagnosed, was in the "mixing", which they claimed originated from errors on the Met side of the transmission.

A perusal of coast-to-coast reviews on opera-l the day after, including posts from ears I trust, indicated NO systemic problem with the surround sound feed outside Tampa. If the story ended here, I probably would have been OK more or less. A bit pissed, yes, but I could have lived with the odd "mixing", you really can't win it all, and there are far more pressing problems like global warming and Justin Davidson Boccanegra reviews. But it didn't. Apparently, according to the manager we spoke to afterwards, "80% of the audience members came up to her and complained" about the side speakers. (I did some 2nd grade math in front of her, and said, bitch, 320 people could not have come up to you individually during the half-hour intermission, bitch you lie!) And so therefore ... therefore ... to address the "near-unanimous" complaints, in their collective wisdom ... *breathe deeply* ... the management decided to drastically turn down (more accurately, practically turn off) the volume of the side speakers that provide the 3D depth and excitement of modern movie houses, to favor the dull front speakers, which carry your standard flat left-right sound. The result: the second part of the opera was like being in front of a really really big TV with faded color, nonexistent color contrast, and circa 1970s speakers. More than a few times, I had to lean forward to hear the opera during the quiet moments. Also since the woman parked beside me enjoyed scratching her scaly dry white skin every few bars of music, and the sound was so muted I could sooo f*cking hear her scratching her scaly dry white skin. It was that bad. (I'm still so upset, I could cry again.)

These theaters should not be allowed to tinker with the sound signal they receive from the Met. I imagine that the sound balance for every opera transmission is carefully calibrated and optimized by Met technicians to deliver the best possible sonic atmosphere-- therefore local managers can't be permitted to play with any aspect of it at whim, except perhaps to lower the over-all volume to accommodate the special needs of senior citizens (this being Florida). The Met should clarify these issues with their local partners before the next simulcast. It's been two days, but I'm still seething. (I'm not even going into a discussion of the huge greenish blob that hovered in the center of the screen throughout the opera, further distorting its already cheerless color palette and prehistoric color contrast, don't get me started.)