by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n Salzburg two years ago, some people paid $7,000 just to hear Anna Netrebko sing. In Spokane this Saturday morning, you can listen to her for 22 bucks. Netrebko, the Totally Hot Opera Babe of our era, will be onscreen in the title role of Charles Gounod's Rom & eacute;o et Juliette. She'll be singing in French, but ooh la-la, the way she tosses her hair -- it speaks to us in the international language of love. (You can read the subtitles, or you can ogle Juliette.)

For the second year, New York's Metropolitan Opera will be beaming live, high-definition performances to the Regal NorthTown Mall 12 cinemas. (Oh, at the same time, they'll be broadcasting to a dozen nations, including more than 350 other multiplexes across the United States. They like it when we mention that.)

While there won't be any next-day encore performances this year at NorthTown, you can see the same (taped and subtitled) performances on PBS a few days or weeks later -- and about a year from now, you'll be able to own them on DVD. But there's something electric about knowing that opera lovers from Canada to Japan will be watching the same show that Spokane will be receiving, in real time.

"It's so special to see it live. When you know it's being transmitted live in the original language, it just sounds better. And opera has everything -- scenery and dance, the singing and the acting. It has everything going on," says Marie Moe of Spokane's Opera Buffs.

Moe recalls several emotional highlights from last season. In Tan Dun's The First Emperor, she remembers the chorus singing "the slaves' song about how oppressed the people were," and drummers pounding their kettle drums with stones. And the melodrama of Eugene Onegin was obviously memorable: "At the end, when he realizes -- her lover is singing his song to Tatiana, and he was so hoping that she would come to him, but now she says, 'I love you, but I am staying with my husband.' And he just couldn't believe it," Moe recalls. "He was on one knee, and it was so emotional."

The broadcasts include intermissions filled with live interviews with the very singers you've just been watching onstage. Last season, after I Puritani -- Bellini's love story set among Royalists and Oliver Cromwell's soldiers -- Moe says "the camera moved in behind the curtain, just before they were going to take all their bows. And here comes Anna Netrebko, skipping along, bounding toward the camera with all the energy in the world. I read in Opera News since then that she gets so involved in it, so caught up."

Viewers can get caught up in it too: Last season's broadcast of Rossini's The Barber of Seville sold out -- at least in Spokane.

This season, after R & amp;J plays this Saturday, you can escape all the bowl games on New Year's Day by bringing the kids to a sung-in-English broadcast of Hansel and Gretel by Englebert Humperdinck (no really, the original one). On Jan. 12, the witches will dance and the Scottish lady will scream the Mad Scene in Verdi's Macbeth.

The group, which has been around for nearly 30 years, sponsors monthly meetings (with singing performers) and occasional weekend opera trips to Seattle. In the past, Moe has even held pizza parties while showing operas on DVD. And next October, the group will be instrumental in organizing district auditions for early-career singers hoping to make it with the Met Opera itself.

The Met broadcasts its productions to us, and in return, we send them some of our singers. (One's named Thomas Hampson.) It only seems fair.

Watch a live broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera production of Rom & eacute;o et Juliette on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 am-1:30 pm (Pacific time) at the Regal NorthTown Mall 12 cinemas, Division and Wellesley Ave. Tickets: $22; $20, seniors; $15, children. Upcoming live broadcasts include Hansel and Gretel on Jan. 1 at 10 am and Macbeth on Jan. 12 at 10:30 am. Through April, five other broadcasts will follow. Visit or call 535-7051 or 489-0570.

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