Cinemacasts don’t attract new audiences to opera

Opera broadcasts in cinemas do not appear to be building a new audience for the art form, according to new research from English Touring Opera.

The study, conducted by ETO and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, surveyed 234 people attending live cinemacasts in London between October and December last year.

Eighty-one per cent of cinema opera attendees were over 60. The report concluded that existing opera audiences value the opportunity to see productions that are geographically and financially inaccessible, often enjoying a sense of participation and shared experience that is similar to live events.

But 85 per cent of those surveyed reported no increased motivation to attend a live production after watching an opera cinemacast.

Opinions were split into three main positions: there is nothing like live opera; cinema is a good alternative to live opera; and cinema opera is a new art form in itself.

Some respondents said they believe cinema could have the potential to create new audiences for opera, but it isn’t happening yet.

Read: Can digital ever replace the live experience?

English Touring Opera general director James 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 yet transformed, but has certainly shifted.’

The study was funded by Creativeworks London, which brings together creative business and academic institutions to increase growth in the creative economy.

Photo: English Touring Opera’s Paul Bunyan © Richard Hubert Smith