Royal Opera House unveils expanded cinema programme

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu and chief executive of the Royal Opera House Tony Hall on the Royal Opera House's cinema programme

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London's Royal Opera House has launched an ambitious programme of cinema screenings, including a production of Madam Butterfly shot in 3D.

Ten operas and ballets will be shown in more than 700 cinemas in 22 countries during the 2011 - 2012 season.

Leading soprano Angela Gheorghiu will appear in three - Faust, Adriana Lecouvreur and Tosca.

Chief executive Tony Hall, said reaching out to cinema audiences was "now a part of our core purpose".

"This is part of opening up the glories of the opera house to as many people as we can," he told BBC Breakfast.

In recent years, the company has strived to reach out to "people who might think they are not sure" about attending the opera or ballet.

The Royal Ballet took over the O2 arena in June, performing Swan Lake to an audience that had paid as little as £10 for a ticket.

Live broadcasts of popular operas like Carmen have been beamed to big screens in cities around the UK, often preceded by an audience sing-along to The Toreador Song.

Angela Gheorghiu, Sergei Polunin and Lauren Cuthbertson Angela Gheorghiu, and principal dancers Sergei Polunin and Lauren Cuthbertson will be among the performers on screen

"We want to make sure that as many people as we can find can try world class opera and ballet at a price they can afford" said Hall.

"The Royal Opera House is a pioneer of this kind of transmission," said Georghiu, the glamorous Romanian soprano who made her international debut in Covent Garden in 1992.

Georghiu will sing the role of Marguerite in Faust, which will be broadcast live on 28 September.

Recordings of her performances in the title roles of Adriana Lecouvreur, from 2010, and Tosca, from July this year, will also be shown.

The latter production won several five-star reviews, with The Independent lavishing particular praise on the soprano's performance.

"Gheorghiu, like Tosca, is a born diva, playful and light on the vocal chords in act one, scornful in act two, and liberated in act three with stonking high Cs and bags of attitude," wrote Edward Seckerson.

The 2011-2012 cinema season will also feature The Royal Ballet's performances of Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.

Operas in the programme include Verdi's Rigoletto, Cendrillon (Cinderella) and Puccini's Il Trittico, which the company is staging in full for the first time since 1965.

Fans attending the live performances at the Royal Opera House can expect to pay up to £205 for a premium seat in the stalls, but the lowest-priced tickets are around £9.

"We are keeping 50% of our seats at £55 or below and a large proportion at £20," Hall said.

"I absolutely understand that people are very sensitive to prices in these times. We are in difficult circumstances, but nonetheless we are trying to keep those prices down."

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