Even as San Francisco Opera announced that it is joining the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in screening its productions in cinemas, news emerges that the Royal Opera House in London is making preparing to follow suit.
A report in London's The Independent earlier this week revealed that the ROH has concluded an agreement with the Musicians' Union (U.K.) allowing the recording of 14 productions annually "for commercial exploitation," with the right to screen 12 of those in movie theaters. (No distribution deal with cinema owners or schedule of operas to be shown has been announced as yet.)
And while San Francisco Opera purchased and installed a state-of-the-art media studio, Covent Garden bought an entire DVD label, Opus Arte, earlier this year. (The ROH already had a high-definition recording facility.) The acquisition of Opus Arte enables the opera house to package and distribute its productions via satellite into cinemas, on DVD and online as downloads.
Covent Garden has already been busy expanding its online presence. Two weeks ago the company posted well over two dozen video clips on YouTube: trailers for current opera and ballet productions, "behind the scenes" documentary segments, and such older material as an interview with Karita Mattila on playing Leonore in Fidelio and an excerpt from a 1966 Romeo and Juliet starring Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
The ROH has also launched a series of podcasts. Ten of the programs are currently available on the company's website (www.royaloperahouse.org), including Bryn Terfel talking about playing the comic title role in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, composer Thomas Ads in conversation with cast members of his opera The Tempest, and actor Simon Callow reading from the letters of Richard Wagner on the creation of the Ring cycle.
"If you take [taxpayers'] money from people up and down the country, you've got to make every effort to get out there," ROH chief executive Tony Hall told The Independent. "Technology enables you to reach parts of the U.K. you wouldn't otherwise be able to reach ... In the multimedia world we're in, you've got to get out and meet people where they are, and not expect them to come here."