Re: Opera Broadcasts

Today, The Independent has published this article on Opera broadcasts in cinemas, and whether it replaces the real deal (spoiler: it doesn’t). Alexandra Coughlan makes several good points, including several advantages of a cinema broadcast (i.e. can dress as you like, no stage-view problems of bad/far away seats in the opera house, and the ability to walk out mid-performance without offending performers). The article is well worth your time, and raises some issues that I also wrote about earlier this year when I saw Frankenstein in the cinema.

I support cinema broadcasts. Mainly because it gives people access to see things they couldn’t have. I couldn’t have seen Frankenstein because it would have required a UK visa, London accommodation, tickets purchased in advance, a train or plane ticket etc… However, I also find that the cinema should not replace opera or theater. In a way, it can’t. Coughlan’s article also touches upon this issue:

In an age in which we digest more and more of our culture digitally, it’s vital that we preserve public rituals of performance. Because they are rituals, these trips to Covent Garden or the Coliseum, where you feel the breath of a climactic chorus on your face, where the fragile stillness of an aria can hush an audience of 2,000. Whatever we experience in this shared, public space is amplified a thousand-fold by the reactions of those around us, whether on stage or off. There’s an energy, a risk, to this nightly act of creation that is impossible to simulate. We already have opera singers translated into 3D cinematic doubles, but until these shadowy doppelgangers can reach out and touch us physically, they can’t truly hope to emotionally either.

I couldn’t agree more. There is this joy of watching a piece being performed live. The fact that it all happens right in front of you, shared with you at that moment, with that risk and the nightly creation. That should not be replaced by technology. It can be enhanced by it, by cinema broadcasts, so more people can enjoy it, and maybe younger audiences can be engaged in it. But not replace it and take away that magic.