Opera: Transcontinental Bang

Opera companies of all sizes and ages chattered to life across the country last week like firecrackers on a string. Manhattan's two companies faced off across Lincoln Center Plaza with year-old productions: the Metropolitan with its comfy,old-fashioned Traviata and the New York City Opera with Beni Montresor's fairy-tale setting of The Magic Flute. In neither case was the performance on much more than a ho-hum level; in fact, Spanish Soprano Montserrat Caballe's first Met Violetta seemed an almost deliberate throwback to the bad old days when singers were meant to be heard but not seen.

Both...

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