Coming to a big screen near you – live opera

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The Independent Culture

A season of performances from the Royal Opera House is to be screened live at cinemas in Britain and across Europe.

The autumn programme of 16 ballets and operas will be shown in at least 112 cinemas, including the Empire Leicester Square, the Vue and Odeon multiplex chains, and independent venues on the Continent.

For the price of a cinema ticket, audiences will be able to watch live shows in "full surround sound" as they are being performed in the opera house in Covent Garden, where tickets can cost £195 each.

The season starts with Mozart's Don Giovanni and includes Britten's War Requiem and Handel's Messiah. The first live ballet to be screened will be Ondine next June.

As part of the campaign to democratise the arts, the 2,000-strong audience at the Royal Opera House for the programme's opening night on 8 September will be made up of people who have never been to the opera before. They will pay between £7.50 and £30 for a seat and will be chosen by ballot. The Royal Opera House is also planning to show 3D operas and ballets at 60 cinemas next year, Tony Hall, chief executive of the ROH, said: "I hope to find a new audience and get people hooked."

A marketing campaign will promote "musical and ballet treats coming to a cinema near you" with trailers and posters before the autumn launch.

Mr Hall said: "A while ago at an outdoor screening of [Verdi's] Don Carlos in Trafalgar Square, I sat on my inflatable cushion and saw people coming and going... everyone looked relaxed, some coming with beer and some with wriggling children. I hope the same crowd comes to the cinema, and later in life, to the opera house."

Up to 63 cinemas in Britain signed up to the scheme in just three weeks as well as 49 in Europe, with many more expected to come on board in coming months.