It’s true that you can see Russia from Alaska — from the state’s far western islands, anyway. And now you can see Russian ballet from Alaska, from two movie theaters right in Anchorage.
Anchorage’s Century 16 cinema showed the Bolshoi Ballet’s “live” performance of The Sleeping Beauty on Sunday, November 20 and will air an encore performance on Tuesday, November 22 at 6:30 pm. On Wednesday, November 30 both Century 16 and Anchorage’s Regal Tikahtnu theater will show the Bolshoi’s production of Esmeralda at 6:30 pm. This isn’t a uniquely Alaskan phenomenon: in fact, almost 600 movie theaters across the United States and Canada will show Sleeping Beauty and/or Esmeralda in the coming weeks.
Anchorage opera-lovers are already accustomed to hitting the movie theater for broadcast performances of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Now Century 16 and Regal Tikahtnu are expanding their offerings to include plays from London’s National Theatre, symphonic concerts from the LA Philharmonic, and ballet from the Bolshoi, among other presentations.
For many Alaskans, this is first access to the world’s best fine arts performances. Alaska may be close to Russia, but not many of us can hop a plane to Moscow to watch the unbelievable Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora, one of the most technically demanding roles in the balletic repertoire. It was a performance for the ballet history books — the company’s first on the Bolshoi Theater’s newly renovated historic stage, and David Hallberg’s first leading role as the first American principal dancer ever at the Bolshoi. And I watched it last night, in stadium seating and stained jeans, snarfing a tub of movie theater popcorn.
The footage was amazing: I could see every expression on Zakharova’s face as she pirouetted over and over again, holding her elegant balance on one pointed toe as her four suitors took turns spinning her. How fun to people-watch the Muscovite audience during intermission, to glimpse footage of the inside of the storied, gilded theater, and to see backstage interviews with the charming Hallberg and the hilarious and humble Alexey Loparevich, who played the evil Catalabutte.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder how these mega-broadcasts will eventually affect local performances. Already in Anchorage there’s been at least one scheduling conflict between a Met broadcast and an Anchorage Opera performance. In two weeks, both Century 16 and Regal Tikahtnu will broadcast the St. Olaf’s Christmas Festival on the same day as Anchorage’s local Messiah performance.
The economics will rarely be in favor of the local gigs. It costs $18 to see the Bolshoi at the cinema, and while that’s a shockingly expensive movie ticket, compare it to the $25 ticket to watch the Alaska Dance Theater in person. The price disparities for opera are even more extreme. Will audiences pay more for the privilege of live performance?
I hope Anchorage can support both our local arts organizations and these new international broadcasts. The Bolshoi preserves the tradition and techniques of classical ballet, while groups like Alaska Dance Theater expand traditions, as with last year’s Qug’yuq, which combined conventional ballet with Yup’ik music and dance. Alaskans deserve to see the best performances of the world and our own talent on stage.
For More Information: If you don’t already know performance names or dates, it’s not easy to find information on the fine arts broadcasts at your local cinema. I suggest going to Fandango.com, finding your local theater by zip code, and then scrolling down to click “coming attractions”. You can also find some, though not all, fine arts broadcasts at FathomEvents.com.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Theefer