Entertainment & Arts

Live opera 'not distracted' by cinema screenings

Sophie Thompson in She Stoops to Conquer
The National's production of She Stoops to Conquer was broadcast live to cinemas in March

A claim by the English National Opera's artistic director that live cinema screenings of performances do not boost audiences has been queried by other arts organisations.

Speaking to The Stage newspaper, John Berry said the events "distract" and did not create new audiences.

But representatives from the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne have disagreed.

Screenings "can be a first step", said General Director David Pickard.

"Glyndebourne plays to virtually full houses and we can't meet audience demand through theatre performances alone," he told the BBC News website.

"So, we couldn't ignore the opportunity presented by recent advances in technology to increase the number of chances to see our work."

Mr Pickard's comments were echoed by a Royal Opera House spokesperson, who said its last live relay of Verdi's Rigoletto had reached 13,500 people in the UK.

'Shared experience'

"The Royal Opera House Cinema Live is now established in over 800 cinemas across 26 different countries, bringing great opera and ballet performances to many people who are just too far from London to be able to make a visit to the Royal Opera House."

"We began National Theatre Live as a way to increase access to our work for those audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see it," said a National Theatre representative.

A scene from the Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Dee Conway
The Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet had a live screening the same month

"What particularly excited us about this concept was the fact that it was live and the shared experience of watching with an audience on a big screen.

"Whilst we could never replicate the same experience as sitting in the theatre, the broadcasts retain something of the feeling of live performance and there is a real sense of event.

"The broadcasts allowed the National to reach new audiences for its work, not least by drawing on established relationships between cinemas and their patrons all over the country."

Five of the operas in Glyndebourne's 2012 Festival will be shown in over 50 cinemas across the UK this summer.

Cinema patrons will also be able to catch live screenings of the Royal Opera 's La Boheme and Falstaff and the Royal Ballet's Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

The National, meanwhile, is holding encore screenings of its sold-out 2011 production of Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch.

John Berry has been artistic director of the English National Opera since 2005.

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