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Opera across the Waves

Flora Willson traces the roots of today's hi-tech opera broadcasts to 19th- and early 20th-century New York, when it emerged as a global operatic centre.

How did opera become an art form consumed today by millions of people globally on computer screens, in cinemas and on the radio? And how, in particular, did New York's Metropolitan Opera become one of the most iconic and powerful producers of this Old World export?

Flora Willson traces the roots of today's phenomenon of opera in cinemas to the years 1890-1930, when New York emerged as a global operatic centre. The programme shows how the Met took the initiative in those decades, exploiting new developments in transatlantic travel, the recording industry and radio broadcasting. And Flora considers how today opera is bursting out of the plush velvet curtains and tapping into mass audiences everywhere by embracing the potential of new technologies. Today you can have the thrill of this extraordinary and overwhelming experience in the home, on the move and at the local cinema. This is a hefty counterpunch to the clichéd view that opera is a dead art form only consumed by the cultural elite.

With contributions from Peter Gelb (General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera), Kasper Holten (former Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House), Mark Schubin (Engineer-in-Charge at the Metropolitan Opera), Barrie Kosky (opera director), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Gundula Kreuzer (musicologist, Yale) and Ben Walton (musicologist, Cambridge).

Producer: Clive Portbury.

Available now

45 minutes

Broadcasts

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