It is not your average visitor experience to the Royal Opera House in London, but it is one people in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk and Aberdeen can enjoy if they visit their local cinema in the coming months.
Courtesy of the Royal Opera House live cinema season, which opens on October 23 with The Royal Ballet's performance of Swan Lake, audiences at 240 cinemas across the UK can take in a live performance from Covent Garden.
"There's the clarity, the sound, the picture. Everything. It's wonderful," says Paul Wilson, alternative content manager at Cineworld in Renfrew Street, Glasgow. "No matter where you sit you've got the best seat in the house."
The Glasgow cinema has been running live transmissions for four years, with audiences growing with each performance. Besides seasonal favourites such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, operas such as La Boheme and La Traviata have proved to be sell-out draws. On the day of its screening last May, La Fille mal gardee was number three in the UK box office.
Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, says the ROH has three quarters of a million seats to sell each year, and every one goes. But as he points out, everyone contributes to the ROH through their taxes, so more people should have a chance to see productions.
So why not simply tour? "You are talking about world-class artists who you are booking five years ahead, who want to come in here with big sets, with a chorus of 40-50 people, an orchestra 110-strong. This is a way of getting to people more cheaply and in a way I think is equally involving."
In certain respects, audiences in Glasgow or Edinburgh see more than those at the ROH. Besides close-ups of the performers there are behind-the-scenes interviews and the chance to watch scene changes. At Cineworld Renfrew Street, audiences are given a two-page synopsis with story and cast, Wilson is there to meet and greet them, and, best of all perhaps, an ice cream trolley comes in at the interval. It's all about making the screening as much of an "event" as possible.
Tickets are more expensive than going to see that week's blockbusters, though. In Glasgow, a ticket to Swan Lake, for example, costs £17, or £13.80 concession. The higher prices, says Hall, reflect the investment in the service and the cost of getting the signal from the ROH to venues. (For comparison's sake, tickets to see The Nutcracker at the ROH sell for up to £110.)
"The audiences are growing like mad which seems to say there's a market there for these things," says Hall. "I make no bones about it, we're trying to make some money out of this not by putting prices up to ridiculous levels or anything like that, but by covering our costs. We aim to break even and that's what we do, and I hope that as we get to more people, not just in this country but around the world, we can look at how much comes back to do new things here, and how much we put into lowering prices."
The Metropolitan Opera in New York also runs live screenings, but its tickets are more expensive: £20 and £15 for concessions.
In total, ROH productions screen to more than 900 cinemas in 32 countries, meaning audiences in Scotland are enjoying the same performance, for example, as audiences in Japan and Brazil, both growing markets.
The ultimate goal, says Hall, is that more people are attracted to ballet and opera. They might be more willing to give something a try if it's on at the cinema near where they live, he says, and that could lead on to going to live performances in the theatre.
"I care a lot that we attract new people to these art forms, that people don't feel it's remote from them. This is good for opera and ballet right across the UK."
The new season runs to June next year and includes four new opera productions: Nabucco (with Domingo making his role debut); Eugene Onegin; La Donna del Lago, and Gloriana.
For the performers, a live transmission night is a special occasion, says Laura McCulloch, a soloist with the Royal Ballet. The former Dance School of Scotland pupil has had several of her performances beamed live, which means more of her family and friends can see her perform without having to travel to London.
"My mum, who has seen a lot of performances at the Opera House, thought it was wonderful on screen, that it really carried."
With an international cast, it's not just Ms McCulloch's family and friends who get to see their favourite dancer. At one screening to Brazil, several of the dancers in London knew their families were watching near home.
With performers knowing it's time for their close-ups, there is slightly more pressure, says McCulloch, which all adds to the intensity of the experience – for audiences and dancers alike. "You definitely get more of a sense of what the dancers are feeling."
Wilson agrees, recalling one particularly memorable screening of Romeo and Juliet and a close-up of the lovestruck hero. "You could see the tear running down his face."
All that, and Scots audiences get to go home to their own beds. Nessun dorma no more.
Cineworlds Aberdeen Union Square, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow Renfrew Street. www.cineworld.com, and www.roh.org.uk/cinema
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