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Article - The opera for everyone … thanks to the cinema

The National Opera of Paris recently announced the implementation of a partnership with the UGC Group for the live diffusion of five operas and three ballets in about a hundred auditoriums in France and abroad. An opportunity to go back over the success of the lyrical offer at the cinema.

The opera, intruder or incentive for the programming of the cinema?

For the beginning of the opera in cinemas, there were risks (of failure), and disputes (by cautious people). When the lyrical representations appeared in the audiotoriums of the Pathé Gaumont Network in 2008, inspired by the success of “The Met: live in HD”, the pessimism of the professional of the opera, and of the owners was instantaneous. Gérard Mortier, then Director if the National Opera of Paris, declared that he “was not paid to fill the cinemas” and the owners took a dim view of their screens  pirated by the music lovers.

However, Pathé-Gaumont and its seasons Pathé Live, quick followed by the UGC network and Viva l’Opera held out. The artistic and public success has made the appointment ever since.  That is why UGC, for its third season, has just launched a subscription with their loyalty card and the National Opera of Paris announced the implementation of a partnership for the live diffusion of five operas (for the first, The Hoffmann’s stories, by Offenbach, played on September 19, the UGC netwolk sold 80% of the available tickets and almost 10 000 viewers saw the broadcast in France and Europe) and of three ballets in about a hundred auditoriums in France and abroad.

A democratization which attracts a new audience

The originators like Nicolas Joël, director of the Paris National Opera, and Alain Duault, sponsor of Viva L’Opera UGC are very pleased about it. The diffusion of operas and ballets meets an objective of democratization and education towards an art seen as elitist and presents a “driving accompanied by a qualified driver” as says Alain Duault, to the public who is often suspicious towards the big institutions. The offer is attractive; the ubiquity (all opera houses of the world), the quality (high definition, subtitles in French) and sometimes the exclusivity (live diffusion). Finally, the price, - about 30 euros, and the subscriptions – is much cheaper than an opera ticket. These arguments explain the good figures of the audiences: La Traviata of Verdi with Nathalie Dessay presented at the Met and diffused by Pathé Live gathered in April 2012 about 34 000 viewers and the audience of Viva l’Opéra UGC increased by 40% during the last season.

A winning innovation for everyone

Despite the technical cost of the broadcast (about fifteen HD cameras for the production and the renting of satellite for 100 000 euros per hour), this is a wining bet for the operas which compensate for the increasing production costs with the rights of diffusions, and with fame, by increasing their audience. The key figures is for the 2009-2010 season, when the sale of 2.4 million tickets of cinema in the world brought in 24 million dollars to the Met for a net benefice of 8 million dollars after the deduction of the production costs. So as not to be outdone, compared to the Met and the Bolchoï, the Opera of Paris finally resolved the juridical imbroglio of its audiovisual rights and created its subsidiary of audiovisual production to diffuse its shows on dvd or on vod. And Nicolas Joël dreams about a national mobilization in a recent article in Le Monde, “The only way for the arts and music in particular to become real tools of democratization is that the Ministry of Education establishes the artistic and cultural education as a real priority”.


To go further:

- Website Pathé Live 

- Website Viva l’Opéra

- Article of the Journalism School of Sciences Po : Vous aimez l’Opéra ? Allez au cinéma !

- Article : La Nouvelle saison de l’Opéra national de Paris

- Article : L’opéra au cinéma, vers une démocratisation du Bel canto