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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

La Scala Goes to the Movies, too

By Norman Lebrecht / February 20, 2008

Coming soon to a cinema near you are five operas from the current season at La Scala, Milan, and more besides. Ever since New York’s Metropolitan Opera went into movie house projections 18 months ago, others have gone charging into the breach. Glyndebourne has screened Tristan and Isolde up and down the land from Brighton to Harrogate and Covent Garden is due imminently to announce a roll-out of its goodies to Europe and the US, though not yet (I gather) to UK audiences.

Scala’s package is as starry as you’d expect – Angela Georghiu in Traviata, her husband Roberto Alagna in Aida (before his celebrated walkout scene), Anna Caterina Antonacci in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, and others of equal heft, along with three productions from Florence’s Maggio Musicale Festival and the Fenice theatre in Venice. Watch out for listings at your nearest Vue theatre.

But before anyone acclaims this as the new era of open access to opera, there are limits to Shangri-la. The Met’s appeal to 600,000 US viewers so far was dictated by the size of the American continent and the scarcity of high-quality opera between its two coasts. A nightingale fancier in Wisconsin would have to fly an awful long way to see a live opera. In Britain and Europe, the art is nearer home and more abundant.

The other potential inhibitor is lack of variety. There are three-dozen operas which are box-office certainties and another three dozen B features. Big opera houses cast their shows from the same small pool. A Met Butterfly may well be identical in all but minor parts from the one that fluttered all too recently in Vienna.

Already Scala is planning to screen a Tristan in London this June before memories of Glyndebourne’s have faded. The market for big-screen opera may be new, but it is also finite. The world’s major opera houses would be well advised to operate a clash system if they want to avoid choking the new big-screen medium in its infancy.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]



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