Monday, 2 April 2012

A Night at the Opera (Almost)

by Louisa Stark

Last Thursday I would have popped up to the ballet at Covent Garden, however a combination of circumstances, namely time and money, meant this was impossible.  Yet thanks to the Royal Opera House cinema season, I was able to catch ‘Romeo and Juliet’ live on the big screen along with audiences in 22 other countries.  As a result of this inspired collaboration, productions which may have seemed to be reserved for the culturally elite are now accessible in over 700 hundred cinemas worldwide, at a fraction of the cost and inconvenience; for £8 a ticket and a bus fare I was able enjoy one of the most lavish productions in London.  Launched in 2011, the extent of this phenomenon was apparent during the interval as tweets scrolled across the screen expressing the viewers’ simultaneous delight at this spectacular production, from Belgium to Brazil.
Needless to say the production was spectacular.  Prokofiev’s instantly recognisable score was the life-blood coursing through Kenneth Macmillan’s passionate and very human choreography, with the principal dancers’, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli, effortlessly capturing the intense emotions of such an enduring tragedy.  The mesmerising pas de deux on the balcony soared dreamily above the precisely timed sword-work and over brimming tension of the market scenes; throughout the stage flared tremulously with love and danger, swelling to one of the most heart-wrenching endings of all time.  Such attention to detail displayed in the exquisite set and costume designs, elevated this production higher than any ballet I’ve seen before and made it clear just why a seat in the Royal Opera House so coveted.  Whilst absorbed in the dancing, I was also filled with admiration for the technology which enabled it to be brought to such a wide audience; a means Kenneth Macmillan, a movie-lover, would have approved of.
Although the directness which comes from being in the same space as the performers cannot be replicated in the cinema, to know that the performance was being relayed live gave the experience certain energy, which left me feeling almost compelled to applaud at the final curtain call alongside the audience of the Royal Opera House.  At times I found it frustrating that my viewpoint was dictated by the camera rather than having the freedom to choose my own focus on the stage, especially during the ensemble pieces, such as the Capulet party.  However this edited style of viewing a ballet lent itself seamlessly to the third act, where emphasis on the acting became almost as heavy as the dancing; as Juliet finally stabbed herself, I was able to see the tears streaming down her face with more clarity than if I was watching from the royal box.
Despite each performance lasting for one night only, the next few months will see our cinema screens bright with more ballet, opera and concerts both live and recorded, up and down the UK.  So, whether you are interested in the sinister opera ‘Rigoletto’ or the light-hearted ballet ‘La Fille Mal Gardee’, this opportunity to glimpse the beautiful world of Covent Garden is not to be missed; perhaps you will even be moved enough to invest in a ticket to the real thing…
Coming soon listings - http://cinema.roh.org.uk/coming-soon

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