HD Operatunities: digital audience development for opera

This autumn Glyndebourne became the first UK opera house to present world-class opera in ODEON cinemas throughout the country. This exciting new initiative extended their work beyond the opera house. “For the price of a cinema ticket and a bucket of popcorn, audiences can now enjoy the world’s best opera on their doorsteps.”Emma Pomfret, The Times.GlyndebourneGiulio Cesare is going to be screened at selected ODEON cinemas on Thursday 29th November, 6.30pm. The unabridged opera will be shown in high definition (HD) with Dolby Digital sound. The recording was made in co-production with Opus Arte, who were recently acquired by the Royal Opera House. It seems that it is the quality of the recording that makes the difference for the audience. HD finally provides a recording quality that is suitable for big screen cinematic and DVD presentation, and does not require that the audience sacrifice quality of visual aesthetic or sound. Stephen Smith, audience member at the cinema for Tristan und Isolde, said, “The experience was simply fantastic… I soon forgot that I was listening to a recorded orchestra and singers, and seeing the big screen and the wonderful production and filming was as great an experience as in Glyndebourne itself.” Classic FM Magazine, voted Glyndebourne’s Giulio Cesare as a 2006 DVD of the Month commenting on “a seamless leap from stage to screen – A vivid production that makes gorgeous viewing”.The Metropolitan Opera in New York (‘The Met”) have also “gone HD”. Their 2007-08 season, called simply The Metropolitan Opera HD Live, HD Metfollows the success of last year’s inaugural season of live broadcasts in cinemas, attended internationally by 325,000 audience members. the numbers indicate great success in terms of audience development, as well as financially. Even at cinema ticket prices, the box office takings will easily cover cost of the multi-camera recording and editing, possibly even the initial staging of the show (which obviously happens anyway for the in-venue audience). “The Met’s experiment of merging film with live performance has created a new art form,” said the Los Angeles Times, pointing out that it has been the reimagining of how work on stage can be successfully recorded for viewing via the screen that has helped to make the experience an exciting one.The Met’s new media strategy continues to be well implemented by their website too – it currently hosts rich media blogs of rehearsals; interviews with artists – including prying questions about what’s on their iPods; and “Ask Figaro” (the barber of Seville served as a resourceful go-to guy for both Rossini and Mozart. Now he’s doing the same for the Met’s website. Confused about the difference between Baroque and bel canto? Ask Figaro. Have a serious question about the use of leitmotifs to illuminate characters’ interior lives in Wagner’s Ring cycle? Ask Figaro.) ipodMetIf you prefer to use social networking sites for your updates and interactions, The Met’s MySpace pages welcome you with the perfect social network chatty tone (“OMG! You’re in The Met’s extended network!”).This must be a first: on Monday, September 25, opera will literally stop traffic in New York.One piece of spectacular audience development happened on September 25th, the Met Opera’s season opener, a new production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly by filmmaker Anthony Minghella was simulcast live onto the giant outdoor screen at One Times Square. Broadway was closed to vehicles from 42nd to 45th Streets to provide space for 650 cushioned seating places plus standing room. The simulcast, was free and open to the public; no tickets are required.Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, told The New York Times that the September 25 Butterfly “marks the first live performance to be simulcast in Times Square.”The Met will also simulcast the opening-night Butterfly onto a screen in Lincoln Center Plaza. Tickets, which are free, will be required for the plaza; they will be available at the house’s box office on the day before the event.The Metropolitan Opera’s media-savvy new general manager, Peter Gelb, had an additional plan for getting major press coverage of the opening night (and, by extension, the house’s activities in general): there was an Academy Awards-style red carpet leading through the plaza, and celebrities on the way into the performance were stopped and interviewed by TV and radio journalist Daljit Dhaliwal, with the questions and answers broadcast onto the outdoor screens. Supposedly, some celebrities such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anjelica Huston, Sean Connery, Iman and David Bowie, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were given cushions for Times Square, not the best seats in the house!The New York Times reported with the picture below: “Bicyclists and passers-by stopped, seemingly mesmerized by the giant images of “Madama Butterfly” glaring through the night sky over Times Square. About 1,000 people sat on chairs behind metal barricades and red velvet ropes on Broadway. Neon advertisements for beer and the Internet competed with a tenor and a soprano singing out their passion.” Times Square Met

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