Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are seeing live opera performances in movie theatres.
The Royal Opera House in London plans to transmit 10 opera and ballet performances in Europe this season and another 18 outside the continent.
The Italian opera houses of Parma, Florence, Venice, Bologna and Milan are beaming their productions, through the distributor Emerging Pictures. Emerging Pictures also transmits shows from the Glyndebourne Festival in England and the Salzburg Festival in Austria, as well as from the opera house in Valencia, Spain.
The Washington National Opera has been presenting simulcasts to schools and universities. The San Francisco Opera transmitted four titles last spring to more than 120 theatres, with limited success, and it has put the effort aside. It is now considering a narrower release to arts centres and independent film theatres in the West.
Unlike most of the above the New York Metropolitan Opera is broadcasting live, beamed via satellite to movie theatres with a high-definition signal, with sell-outs, group visits, opera buff chatter at intermission and picnic baskets. Backstage features and interviews have also become popular – born of necessity given the length of opera intermissions.
Late in January the Met surpassed a million ticket sales for the season, with 3 of the 11 planned broadcasts still to go. That already exceeds the expected total of 850,000 opera-goers who will attend the 220 performances given at the house.
The most recent broadcast, of Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’, was seen in 31 countries in roughly 850 theatres. The Met is also negotiating to send an opera feed to an Argentinian base in Antarctica.
Recently there has also been an experimental demonstration with 4K HDTV from Theatre De IJsbreker in Amsterdam to Tokyo, featuring a Janacek play. In addition the theatre is collaborating with audio/video institutions in California over the broadcasting of the Gloriad Ring.
Add the new 3D glasses and recording and you end up with a massive extension of audiences and a higher occupancy in movie theatres, which are often surprisingly empty if you look at the box office figures.
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