You Review: Live streaming of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore

In our latest reader review, Mike Tilling describes what it’s like to see opera at the cinema

You Review: Live streaming of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore

The potential of live streaming is exciting. Where else could you hear and see superstars like baritone Bryn Terfel and tenor Vittorio Grigolo in Donizetti's L’Elisir D’Amore for the price of a paperback?

I have a love-hate relationship with it, though. When the house lights go down, the conductor strides to the podium and no one applauds. He turns to the audience and bows – to absolute silence. Conditioned to passivity as cinema goers, we have not yet embraced the relatively active engagement of opera audiences. It is an uncomfortable conflict.

In the course of an aria, a camera close-up may show an affecting tear roll down a cheek that must be invisible to the live audience. The same camera close-up may also show, in merciless detail, a soprano’s facial contortions in achieving notes and coloratura at the top of her range.

When the chorus is particularly energetic and powerful, we do not shout ‘bravi’ and applaud as the live audience does. Some eccentrics do join in, but they are quickly silenced by the stony majority around them. Yet it is we, the silent ones, who should be embarrassed because we are not supporting the action on stage by using the rituals of opera performance. To do so, however, from the remoteness of our cinema seats, would be absurd.

Despite my reservations, surveys have shown that four out of five live streaming audience members are opera enthusiasts already. But what this means really is that one in five are new to opera, which can only be a good thing.

In terms of performances in tonight's screening of L'esilir d'amore, soprano Lucy Crowe was alluring as Adina, Vittorio Grigolo (tenor) was splendid as the hapless Nemorino and Bryn Terfel (baritone, pictured above) sang well within capacity as Dulcamara.


- Mike Tilling, Scarborough



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