The Royal Opera and BBC bring opera to millions in the summer

Covent Garden productions available on outdoor big screens, radio, and on other digital platforms

22 April 2009

Antonio Pappano The summer brings spectacular news for opera-lovers all over the world: the Royal Opera House and the BBC announced a partnership which brings the work of the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet to millions of viewers and listeners. Covent Garden productions will be available across many different digital platforms including radio, television, CDs, DVDs, online and outdoor screens. For the first time, the Royal Opera programmes broadcast on the BBC will also be available on the BBC iPlayer. The two-season commitment with the BBC brings eight operas and/or ballets from the RHO to be broadcast on BBC TWO and BBC FOUR. 

'Now our audiences can always find a suitable time to go to the opera!' enthuses Controller of BBC Radio 3, Roger Wright. 'We invite listeners throughout the UK to join us to hear the work of the Royal Opera House, not least during our two-month focus, to experience a wealth of wonderful music and performance'. Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the ROH is equally galvanised: 'We are in a new era and the technology now available enables us, in partnership with the BBC, to record the very best of opera and ballet on our stage at Covent Garden and broadcast and release it to millions of viewers and listeners across the world, not just within the UK. It is extraordinary'. 

Indeed, the imminent delivery of many of the world's finest operatic productions into millions of living rooms all over the UK is cause for great excitement. This project is a mammoth effort towards the widening of operatic audiences beyond the stereotypical elites of aficionados. It is only right, then, that the first productions to arrive on our screens this may should eschew conventions.

In May this year, BBC FOUR televises two productions that fuse ballet and opera. Watch on as director Wayne McGregor - world-class dance choreographer, and the first ever Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet to have a background in contemporary dance - makes his UK debut with the latest production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Handel's Acis and Galatea. This double bill will also be produced as a DVD later in the year.

Yet the joint venture of BBC and RHO goes beyond the simple diffusion of music. Peter Maniura, Head of BBC Classical Music TV, talks of 'harnessing the passion and expertise of the Royal Opera House and its artists'. This effort yields a tantalising result: Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera will present a three-part series, Viva Opera Italia, charting the history of Italian opera from Monteverdi to Puccini. To be broadcast on BBC FOUR in summer 2010, the series will delve into the power and passion of Italian opera, featuring ROH productions with additional filming behind the scenes in Covent Garden and Tony Pappano.

Further treats include Opus Arte's imminent release of high definition recordings on digital platforms including cinema and DVD. In addition, Humperdinck's critically acclaimed Hansel and Gretel, shown on BBC TWO over Christmas will be available on DVD from June 2009; and Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Manon, being broadcast in May on BBC FOUR, is showing in cinemas across Europe and will soon be available on DVD (released by Decca).  

Deep involvement is also expected of the BBC's own musical quarters, as BBC Radio 3 increases its coverage from the Royal Opera to a minimum of 15 broadcasts each year (which also include ballet). One highlight is a the first ever eight-week season of operas from the ROH on BBC Radio 3 in Saturday evening's Opera on 3. This special season launches on 16 May with Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman with other operas including Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, Bryn Terfel performing the title role in Wagner's Der Fliegende Höllander, and Semyon Bychkov directing Wagner's Lohengrin.

Radio 3 will also take part in the re-launching of the ROH's Heritage CD label under the new management of Opus Arte. Decades of previously unreleased archival recordings of productions from the ROH, some dating back to the 1950s, will soon be released under the new label.  

The Royal Opera continues its legendary programme of BP Summer Big Screens of three performances a year in addition to the BBC screens around the country. With fourteen different locations around the country, these free outdoor screenings provide the opportunity for people from Cardiff to Middlesborough to Plymouth to enjoy opera and ballet in an outdoor setting and are a perfect introduction for many people to the work of both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. The three productions for 2008 are the ballet production of Henze's eerie Ondine, Verdi's La traviata, and the irresistible The Barber of Seville.

Thanks to this exciting new project, the implacable grind on the credit crunch can do nothing to deprive you of the best ballet and opera London has to offer. All you have to do is tune in - or indeed, go out to your nearest Big Screen - to have it all at your fingertips, free of charge. It's going to be a good summer.

by Delia Casadei

Elina GarancaKEY TRANSMISSION DATES

Television
May 2009        BBC FOUR
Kenneth MacMillan's Manon
May 2009        BBC FOUR
Wayne McGregor's production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
May 2009        BBC FOUR
Wayne McGregor's production of Handel's Acis and Galatea
 
Radio, Opera on 3 at 6.30pm
16 May  Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann  
23 May  Korngold, Die Tote Stadt
30 May  Wagner, The Flying Dutchman
6 June   Strauss, Elektra
13 June  Bellini, I Capuleti e i Montecchi
20 June  Purcell, Dido and Aeneas; Handel, Acis and Galatea
27 June Wagner, Lohengrin
4 July    Berg, Lulu


BP Summer Big Screens
Ondine – 3 June at 7.30PM              
Centenary Square, Bradford                     
Millennium Square, Bristol                     
The Hayes, Cardiff                             
Market Square, Derby                          
Millennium Square, Leeds                       
Exchange Square, Manchester                    
Centre Square, Middlesbrough                   
The Piazza, Plymouth                           
All Saints' Square, Rotherham                  
Castle Square, Swansea     

La Traviata - 30 June at 7PM
Centenary Square, Bradford
Millennium Square, Bristol
The Hayes, Cardiff
Market Square, Derby
Millennium Square, Leeds
Exchange Square, Manchester
Centre Square, Middlesbrough
The Piazza, Plymouth
All Saints' Square, Rotherham
Castle Square, Swansea


The Barber of Seville – 15 July at 7.30PM
Walthamstow Town Square, Waltham Forest
Centenary Square, Bradford
The Hayes, Cardiff
Market Square, Derby
Millennium Square, Leeds
Clayton Square, Liverpool
Exchange Square, Manchester
Centre Square, Middlesbrough
The Piazza, Plymouth
Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
All Saints' Square, Rotherham
Castle Square, Swansea
Wharf Green, Swindon

Photos: Antonio Pappano; Elina Garanca (Photo credits: Deutsche Grammophon)

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