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Better than Avatar, live big-screen opera

exhibition logoIn the wake of a successful initiative by the New York Metropolitan Opera, national opera companies are increasingly relaying live performances to cinemas across Europe. Svenska Dagbladet waxes lyrical about the new technique which will boost accessibility to high culture.

On 14 January, an opera performed in Stockholms Konserthus was broadcast via live satellite to cinemas throughout Sweden. The event was marked by an exceptional request from the concert hall CEO, Stefan Forsberg, who asked celebrated singer Malena Ernman to invite the public to sing. The result was the spontaneous creation of the largest opera chorus in the history of the country. All of the seats in the Stockholms Konserthus had been sold out for weeks, but most of the audience watched the performance from a network of 30 cinemas across the country, which projected live high-definition footage with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

In Sweden, the trend for the live broadcast of cultural events to networks of remote venues was launched last winter, when nine concerts at the New York Metropolitan Opera were relayed to 83 cinemas. The scheme was a runaway success, to the point where audiences for performances at the Metropolitan were larger in Sweden than they were inside the prestigious Manhattan opera house. For example, on 16 January 2009, a performance of Carmen at the New York Met, which has a maximum capacity of 3,800, attracted an audience of 7,000 in Sweden — and  Swedish music lovers have already purchased 53,000 tickets for this year’s Metropolitan programme.

20 euros a seat

Stockholm’s Royal Opera, which is also taking advantage of the trend for satellite broadcasts to remote cinemas, relayed performances of Falstaff and Cinderella from the People’s House venue last spring. The experience proved to be so successful, that it is now planning to retransmit four further performances to cinemas this year. “The Royal Opera House can seat around 1,000 people, but we had three times that number at venues around the country. Our mission is to encourage popular appreciation of opera, so we are planning to continue the transmissions,” explains the Royal Opera’s technical director Kurt Blomquist. Audiences in small provincial towns across Sweden will now be able to experience the thrill of live performances from capital cities around the world for the relatively affordable price of 20 euros a ticket.

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Better than Avatar, live big-screen opera

Johan Hellekant

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On 14 January, the live broadcast of the New York Metropolitan’s Carmen was shown in 850 cinemas in 31 countries De Standaard. The Flemish daily explains that the initiative is designed to “reinforce the Met’s brand image” and “its reputation as a magnet for international opera stars.” Notwithstanding the relatively high cost of retransmissions — approximately 710,000 euros per event, which is usually offset by sponsorship deals — many of the world’s major opera hosues, including La Scala in Milan and London’s Covent Garden, are planning to follow in the footsteps of the Met.

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