Hold the popcorn! Opera is heading for the multiplex

As Glyndebourne starts, its arias won't just be heard in Sussex. Hermione Eyre reports on a new cinema trend

Opera is turning democratic and Glyndebourne – that bastion of rarefied entertainment – is getting in on the act. You can now turn up at your local cinema, wearing jeans, and see the biggest stars in landmark productions, all for the price of a regular film ticket. Yes, it's opera for the people.

Cinemas from Edinburgh to Ipswich are currently screening classics filmed this year at Milan's La Scala, culminating in June with Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. In September, the Royal Opera House will start beaming its performances into cinemas live across the world. And in October, the Everyman Cinema chain will recommence its sell-out season of broadcasts live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Glyndebourne (whose summer season starts today) is scheduling screenings into its repertoire after having a hit at Odeon cinemas last year with three operas, including Giulio Cesare. "I almost enjoyed the film more than the live production," raved one audience member. Is that picnic hamper starting to look redundant?

"Audiences love it and so do exhibitors," said Gemma Richardson, of the distributors Arts Alliance Media. She explained that cinemas can fill their houses during traditionally quiet periods, such as sunny afternoons. Screenings tend to be atmospheric. "People clap after most arias," said Theresa Valtin of Edinburgh's Filmhouse (where Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is shown today).

Everyman Cinemas up the ante (and the price, which is generally £25, but £36 for Wagner) with a glass of champagne to accompany the performance. "The whole experience is surprisingly intense," said one attendee, Lara, 28. "The camerawork gives you every angle you could want to see. It's like having all the best seats in the house."

Cinema screenings also come with added treats, such as behind-the-scenes footage from the Met. Cornered in her dressing room, soprano Michelle DeYoung confessed a penchant for protein shakes, while Natalie Dessay's torturous pronunciation of the word "Aldeburgh" caused ripples of hilarity through the audience of Peter Grimes.

The revolution in opera has been a long time in the making. Chris Millard, of the Royal Opera House, said: "We couldn't do it before we had the right sound quality." Now everything is filmed in high definition (HD), and shown in 2K (high resolution) digital cinemas, together with surround sound. The next hurdle was the royalties. "Negotiating the rights with all the various unions has taken two or three years," Mr Millard said. "But most of the artists see the value of this. They understand they're reaching a new, worldwide audience."

Live Met screenings are seen by as many as a million people simultaneously worldwide. The Royal Opera House's recent acquisition of the production company Opus Arte should mean that they will soon reach similar numbers.

But some companies are resisting the cinema revolution. "We're not going in that direction at all," said Jane Livingstone, the head of press at English National Opera. "We do podcasts and interviews, but when it comes to the performance, we want people to experience that live."

Some (anonymous) opera critics feel the same. "What singer wants to have a camera up their nose? Singing is strenuous work," said one, who added: "I don't want to pour scorn, but isn't there something a bit sad about sitting in Harlesden pretending you're at the Met?"

Thousands of opera cineastes would beg to differ.

For dates, go to www.artsalliancemedia.com

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?