AP NEWS
Related topics

Opera ‘Aida’ Goes Live on Internet

June 25, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ The image was tiny and the sound lo-fi when a production of Verdi’s ``Aida″ from Verona, Italy, made history Friday as the first opera to be broadcast live over the Internet.

The sold-out opening-night production at the 77th Verona Opera Festival was made available online through IBM, which estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 people clicked on to the Web site, www.ibm.com/it/aida.

When watched and listened to on different computers, the sound was distant and not fine enough to judge voice quality. On a computer with supposedly better sound quality, the voices broke up or reverberated.

Singers’ movements were jerky, and the images, which were only 2 inches high, were dark.

Next to the tiny picture, a viewer could scroll the libretto of the opera in English or Italian.

``This is a fascinating precedent. We’ll all be watching to note video and audio quality,″ David Gockley, general director of the Houston Grand Opera, said Thursday.

``The Internet clearly will no doubt become the main delivery system for in-home fine arts performances. American producers, artists and unions need to wake up and make sure we can capture our share of the action.″

But David Mann, moderator of a weekly classical-music Internet chat session, said: ``Listening to music on a computer speaker is like taking a bath with your socks on.″

Rock music has already been here and done that. A group called Severe Tire Damage performed live over the Internet in 1993. A year later, the Rolling Stones broadcast over the Web.

During the ``Aida″ broadcast, the Web site offered, in addition to the libretto, background information such as a history of the 15,000-seat amphitheater, built in 100 A.D. under the Romans and used for gladiator battles.

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, a Verdi biographer, was horrified to read that ``Aida″ was commissioned for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, when it really was commissioned for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo that year.

IBM has another Internet first this week: the tennis matches from Wimbledon.

``The image is small. It’s not like watching TV,″ IBM spokesman Ian Colley said.″The advantage is, you can pull up background information on the players, who’s playing who, statistics and what’s going on on other courts. You can customize what you watch.″

AP RADIO
Update hourly