Last Saturday at 8:27 a.m., a freshly wrapped ham and brie sandwich tumbled toward my feet. "It's from the Metropolitan Market," explained the woman several seats over, "not from here." I may have just slung my jacket over a seat at the Pacific Place movie theater, but I realized right then: I'm really at the opera. Opera fanatics always prepare.

An hour later, an all-star cast sang in the Metropolitan Opera's HD transmission of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. It was one of the most memorable performances I have seen live, on DVD, or anywhere. Deborah Voigt was a steely and superb Isolde. Michelle DeYoung (Brangäne), who herself will one day be an amazing Isolde, and Matti Salminen (King Marke) were marvelous. Robert Dean Smith, the fourth (!) Tristan cast in this ill-starred run, replaced an ailing Ben Heppner with a voice that gave me goose bumps.

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The performance's sole flaw? The visual direction by Barbara Willis Sweete, who employed the Met's legion of cameras to continually insert picture-in-picture close-ups on the screen.

At intermission, one wag commented, "It's like the opening of The Brady Bunch." Rather than underscore relationships among the characters, Sweete's primitive attempt at visual polyphony proved distracting, most flagrantly near the end of Act I. As Tristan and Isolde embrace after drinking a love potion, Sweete disfigured a tableau of gorgeous scarlets and reds by nesting two close-ups at opposite corners of the screen.

The Met's next HD performance will likely be free of picture-in-picture shenanigans; Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas star in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Puccini's La Bohème. Expect the essence of grand opera: a cast of thousands, palatial sets, sumptuous costumes, and world-class singing. recommended

The next Met HD broadcast airs in various Seattle-area movie theaters Sat April 5, 10:30 am, $15–$22. See www.metopera.org/hdlive for tickets and locations.

Concerts

Fri 4/4

GIANNI SCHICCHI

Singers from Seattle Opera's Young Artist Program star in fully staged productions of two one-act operas, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and L'enfant et les Sortilèges by Ravel. Think of the Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program as minor-league baseball for opera singers: younger, hungrier, and sometimes much more fun than the majors. Also Sat April 5 at 7:30 pm and Sun April 6 at 2 pm. The Theater at Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE Sixth St, Bellevue, 389-7676, 7:30 pm, $15/$35.

NORTHWEST SINFONIETTA

Conductor Christophe Chagnard leads an all-Beethoven program: the titanic Symphony No. 9 and the utterly unknown Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. Perhaps Beethoven's biggest hit, the stirring final movement of Ninth always makes me want to saddle up and ride into battle. By contrast, Calm Sea, a choral setting of a Goethe poem, soon vanished into obscurity, eclipsed by Mendelssohn's version without voices. Also Sat April 5 at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 888-365-6040, 7:30 pm, $12—$40.

EYE MUSIC

This ensemble specializes in performing graphic—instead of traditionally notated—scores. Dean Moore, whose solo improvisations on multiple racks of percussion can teeter at the edge of audibility, interprets a page of Cornelius Cardew's Treatise on solo gong. Fellow ensemble members Eric Lanzillotta, Mike Shannon, Dave Knott, Esther Sugai, and others premiere Shannon's Matrix along with works by Toshi Ichiyanagi, Bob Cobbing, Michael Parsons, and David Toop. Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding-scale donation.

APHONIA RECORDINGS SHOWCASE

I wish more shows mingled pop and the decisively avant; don't most music lovers listen to multiple genres of music? This month's showcase features an acoustic set by Kristian Garrard (aka KRGA), performance artist Denis & Denyse, the Spokane-based indie pop of Daedelum, and the Precambrian, who use Cycling 74's ultraflexible Max/MSP software to "transform unassuming instruments, voices, and occasional household items into dense, Ligeti-esque tone clusters." Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, 322-1533, 8 pm, free, but donations accepted.

Sat 4/5

LADIES MUSICAL CLUB

A classical-music bargain. A slew of singers sally through songs, arias, and duets by Verdi. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, 622-6882, 2 pm, free.

BAROQUE NORTHWEST

Making a virtue of the obscure and overlooked, Baroque NW performs Franco-Flemish songs from the late 15th century. Preconcert talk starts at 7:15 pm. Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 368-0735, 8 pm, $10—$25.

GRETA MATASSA QUINTET

One of our burg's finest jazz vocalists, Matassa sings standards, old chestnuts, and forgotten gems. With saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 8:30 pm—12:30 am, $15.

Tues 4/8

GHIDRA

Support The Stranger

Ghidra, the out-jazz skronk trio of Wally Shoup (alto sax), Bill Horist (guitar), and Accüsed drummer Mike Peterson (drums), share a bill with the Bob Barker Bloodbath, who veer from ear-clogging metal to sunny pop ditties in a trice. Sunset, 5433 Ballard Ave NW, 784-4880, 9 pm, $6.

chris@delaurenti.net