Opera screenings failing to boost interest in the art form, survey finds

A scene from Sicilian Vespers by the Royal Opera, a company which live streams some of its productions. Photo: Tristram Kenton
A scene from Sicilian Vespers by the Royal Opera, a company which live streams some of its productions. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Around 85% of audiences that attend live screenings of opera do not feel more compelled to see the art form live afterwards, according to a new survey.

The investigation found that, after seeing an opera at the cinema, around 75% of participants reported feeling no different about attending a live production, with around 10% feeling less motivated.

This has shown that screening opera productions to create a new generation of audience for the live art form is “wishful thinking”, according to English Touring Opera’s general director James Conway.

The survey included responses from around 230 participants who were almost all attending cinemas in London at the end of 2013 to watch live relays of operas Eugene Onegin, The Nose, Sicilian Vespers, Tosca and Falstaff.

It revealed that around 80% of cinema opera attendees were more than 60 years old, which was slightly older than the average age of live opera-goers. Fewer than 10% of those at the cinema screenings were younger than 50 years old.

The research, which was conducted by ETO and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in partnership with the Barbican cinema in London, is thought to be the first of its kind looking at attendance of live opera screenings.

Conway said: “A lot has been speculated about the potential for cinema relays to create new audiences for live opera. I would love that to be the case but, as this research indicates, it may be wishful thinking.

“What is sure is that access to digital opera performance has changed quickly, and producers of opera will need to respond with some intelligence to an environment that has not transformed, but has certainly shifted. This partnership with the Guildhall School and Creativeworks London [which funded the research] has been vital as ETO starts to formulate its response to these changes and our future business development.”

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