The EBU Radio representatives who gathered in New York on 18-20 March for the Broadcasters’ Weekend had a special reason to celebrate: the silver anniversary of bringing the productions of one of the world’s greatest opera houses to millions of European radio listeners.
A quarter-century might seem like a mere drop in the bucket in the history of a radio programme stretching back to 1931, when the Metropolitan Opera of New York began its legendary Saturday afternoon opera broadcasts within the United States. Euroradio can nonetheless point with pride to making the “Met” a household word to their audiences, long before the HD live transmissions to cinemas around the world had even been thought of.
Back in 1990, the very first European transmission of a Met matinee performance was Verdi’s “La Traviata”, with Diana Soviero and Jerry Hadley in the lead roles. That performance was heard live or deferred in six countries, three of which no longer exist in the same form: Czechoslovakia, West Germany and the Soviet Union. The signal, digitally encoded at the Met, was sent via satellite to Frankfurt, then passed on to individual broadcasters.
The weekend in New York, made possible by the generous contribution of the Metropolitan Opera and the active participation of Romanian Radio and the EBU Associate WFMT Radio Network of Chicago, gave Euroradio broadcasters the opportunity not only to have a backstage tour at the Met, but also to participate in a panel discussion on the adventures and challenges of putting contemporary opera on the radio, to listen to a presentation of inspiring and concrete multimedia/operatic ideas by broadcasters and the Met, and to attend a choice of such musical events as Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” at the Met (including a private meeting with the stars), a Sunday matinee of chamber music at Borge Hall, or a performance by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center.