For persons daunted by the cost of a decent seat at the Royal Opera House, but still wanting a view that doesn’t rely on opera-glasses to see what is happening on the distant stage – then the ROH has announced its new season of live broadcasts to cinemas.
Broadcasting the opera, or ballet, to cinemas also widens the viewing audience manifold from the 2,200 people who can fit into the theatre to thousands of people in some 240 cinemas around the UK (and even more worldwide).
In fact, last year they sold over 300,000 cinema tickets, and while at the moment the £1 million of extra cash is just about covering the additional costs, they hope to turn a profit this year.
For an audience, there is no doubt that the cinema audience is rather more relaxed that its theatrical counterparts – and its not often that you can munch on popcorn while watching Swan Lake performed live. It’s also noted that the cinema audience possibly gets a better deal than the theatre as the camera can get close in to the singers and dancers in a way that is just not possible in a theatre.
The new season, which has just been announced is for 9 productions, six operas and three ballets. Most will be live, with the exceptions of Les Troyens — which is rarely staged in full, so despite not broadcasting it live, it was decided that its epic scale works well on a big screen. Also Verdi’s Nabucco will be pre-recorded.
The rest are screened live though – which appears to be an important selling point for the cinema audience.
One issue which has bedevilled live broadcasts since they started a few years ago is the lighting of the stage. Unless they over-light the stage, the broadcasts to cinemas can appear dimly lit by comparison, but their new cameras are now able to deal with that problem.
They are also investigating doing live 3D screenings, which I am personally wary about. Three hours of 3D cinema is going to be headache inducing.
The season starts later this month though, in reassuring 2D, with perennial favourite, Swan Lake.
The season then continues with a single performance per month: Les Troyens; The Nutcracker; La Boheme; Eugine Onegin; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Nabucco; Donna Del Lago and finally Glorianna by Benjamin Britten in June.
A quick search on the ROH website shows about 25 cinemas around London participating in the live broadcasts. Participants include Picturehouse, Odeon, RichMix, Curzon, Everyman, Vue and Empire
If you want to attend a performance at Covent Garden in person and are a student, you can qualify for standby tickets for £10, if there are any unsold tickets on the day of the show.
There are also cheap seats from just £4 upwards – very upwards – for some of the ballets if you don’t mind sitting so high up that vertigo could be a problem for some.