Opera may be coming to a cinema near you

Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:11pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - For opera lovers who balk at paying 180 pounds ($270) for a seat in the stalls, or anyone seeking a night out at the cinema with a difference, opera houses are increasingly looking to film to boost audiences.

New York's Metropolitan Opera led the way with live broadcasts in movie theatres two years ago, and its "Live in HD" series reached 920,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number who saw performances in the opera house itself.

British opera houses followed suit, and now Russia's Bolshoi Ballet is getting in on the act as demand for access to what has often been seen as the preserve of wealthy patrons opens up.

"We genuinely believe this is another way for people to get access to the art form in a less intimidating way," said Gillian Brierley, head of marketing at Glyndebourne, southern England, which holds an annual opera festival notoriously difficult to get tickets to.

"Now for 10 pounds you can try it. We have very high attendance figures during the festival, but we have an aging audience and need an audience of the future. And obviously it is less of a risk to pay 10 pounds and think you don't like it."

Glyndebourne's foray into opera in cinema is still small, but this year it tripled the number of theatres it screened at to around 30 after the success of a pilot scheme in 2007.

The number is determined not only by demand, but also by the limited amount of digitally equipped cinemas in Britain.

"Digital cinemas are pretty limited in the UK and that is going to change, and once you see the UK market becoming digitized you will really find out how big the audience is," said Drew Kaza, digital development director at Odeon cinemas.   Continued...

<p>A dress rehearsal of Giovanni Paisiello's opera buffa "Il matrimonio inaspettato" in a 2007 photo. REUTERS/Calle Toernstroem</p>