Nearly 10 times as many people saw the work of the Royal Opera House through broadcast in 2011/12 than at the famous Covent Garden venue, it was revealed today, as the 2012/13 season was launched.
"Whatever we do - and we fill up the house night after night after night - you can only get three quarters of a million people through the Opera House. We can only sell that number of seats in any one year," Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House told journalists. "Last year, something like seven and a half million people watched us in various forms of broadcast in this country and around the world. That is one hell of an impact for an opera house here in the middle of Covent Garden."
The stats are even more remarkable than that. On the day ballet La Fille Mal Gardée was released in cinemas, it reached number 3 in the chart of UK box office takings for that day, sitting behind Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator and superhero blockbuster Avengers Assemble, remaining at number 10 for box office takings that week.
Hall is hoping for more of the same from the new season of shows, which combines ballets Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland with operas Le Troyens, La Bohème, Eugene Onegin, Nabucco, La Donna Del Lago and Gloriana.
Of these nine productions, seven are being screened live, a programming decision which, said Hall, "really grabs people. It's very important and goes back to what I think everybody feels, which is you're part of the action, part of the audience." Les Troyens, one of the productions that is not screened live, is included because, Hall explained, "To have such a stunning production, so well sung, so well played... We're very proud of it and we wanted more people to have access to it." Speaking about the Berlioz opera, star Eva-Maria Westbroek said it was "the most spectacular production I've ever been in".
Westbroek is just one of the Royal Opera House's stars that will appear in the screenings, with others including Rolando Villazón, Simon Keenlyside, Plácido Domingo, Joyce DiDonato, Toby Spence, Steven McRae and Zenaida Yanowsky.
"Cinema in the last 18 months has been absolutely core to what we want to do in the Royal Opera House," Hall concluded. "We want to take great artists, great art, to as many people as we can."