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Opera in the Cinema: I’m Converted!

Marcelo Puente and Ermonela Jaho in Madama Butterfly © ROH 2017. Photograph by Bill Cooper

Marcelo Puente and Ermonela Jaho in Madama Butterfly © ROH 2017. Photograph by Bill Cooper

Now I’m no musical purist, but this week I’ve had my head turned and opinion completely changed by something wonderful, namely, watching opera in the cinema. I had previously written off the streaming of live opera as a gimmick, something probably inferior to the whole experience of a night at the opera. So, you can imagine my delight deep scepticism when my better half dragged me off to the local Odeon this week…well, actually the deal was sweetened with a meal and wine beforehand, so the watching of the opera was going to be more of a minor inconvenience!

Anyway, oh, how wrong I was.

Settling down in my seat, I had that feeling of apprehension you get when faced with being captive for three hours of ‘entertainment’ in front of you. Looking around, it occurred to me that these types of events must be very popular judging by the packed cinema (all terribly well behaved too, I might add).

Up pops Clemency Burton-Hill introducing the evening and talking to some of the cast and crew. So far, so good. Then followed several pieces of prepared video featuring the background to the show; this was a particularly nice touch, a bridge between TV broadcast and theatre, like a visual/digital programme.



And so it began: the Royal Opera House’s 2017 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Wow. I really should have had more faith in the ROH! Of course, I expected a top notch cast and production, and they certainly did not disappoint in this regard, but I wasn’t expecting this level of visual and audio quality. You get a view in the cinema that is better than any of the best seats, in high definition, and with very handy subtitles (if your Italian is as bad as mine). But the sound, this is where it really came into its own for me.

The technical crew had very sympathetically mic’d up the orchestra and, when streamed and played back through the cinema’s powerful surround sound system, it was as if you were sat right where Antonio Pappano was conducting. Quite simply, it was stunning in effect. As a typical composer, it made me wonder what other pieces of music would sound like mic’d and broadcast through surround sound.

Production photo of Madama Butterfly © ROH 2017. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Production photo of Madama Butterfly © ROH 2017. Photograph by Bill Cooper

It really is quite revitalising hearing something you’re familiar with broadcast in a new way. When combined with the beautiful staging, lighting and delivery of the opera, it made for a very, very compelling evening’s entertainment and I think I may well prefer this format. So, I urge you to try it! The ROH broadcast such events to cinemas worldwide and you can also follow up on details of the production, and the background to the opera, by accessing the full digital programme for free HERE ( Use promocode: FREEBUTTERFLY ).

Quick to get to. Comfortable. Superior view. Superior audio. Inexpensive (UK tickets were £15). What’s not to like? Well done ROH and here’s to many more successful productions! #ROHbutterfly

Chris is a music tutor and composition mentor at iAM Eduation. More information can be found at

One thought on “Opera in the Cinema: I’m Converted!

  1. I wonder if they will ever do Birtwhistle’s “Punch and Judy”? Now that would be good in close up with all that gore. Maybe a Tarantino production? Lol!

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