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Katie Mitchell’s Royal Opera production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor was relayed live to cinemas around the world on 25 April 2016. During the interval audiences saw several short films featuring interviews with the cast and creative team as well as footage of the opera in rehearsal. Mitchell is joined by the cast of her latest production to introduce the story of Lucia – an aristocratic woman who is forced to marry a wealthy landowner after she falls in love with her brother’s enemy.
This new production is a feminist take on Donizetti’s opera and focuses the audience’s attention on the central female character.
The glass harmonica is the unusual instrument used to create the eerie sound of the ‘mad scene’ – the moment Lucia realizes that she can never be reunited with her lover Enrico.
Glass harmonica player, Philipp Marguerre, shows how the instrument makes its haunting effect. The instrument also known as a ‘bowl organ’ or a ‘hydrocrystalophone’ can play a huge range of notes from a C1 to an E Flat which allows the player to follow melodies or more polyphonic music.
The German composer spent 27 years composing the Licht cycle of operas, completing the work in 2003.
The piece was performed in seven acts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1973 and listed by the Guinness World Records as the longest single opera ever performed. A cycle of four music dramas inspired by Norse mythology, Wagner's masterpiece took 26 years to write. Wagner's only comedy, Meistersinger explores the relationship of art and artists with society. Kasper Holten makes his farewell as Director of The Royal Opera with a new production of Wagner’s comic opera in Spring 2017. Richard Wagner described Tristan und Isolde as ‘the most audacious and original work of my life’. Handel wrote many of his works for the first theatre on the Royal Opera House’s Covent Garden site. Based on two German legends,Tannhauser centres on an epic struggle between sacred and profane love. One of Richard Strauss' best-known works, Der Rosenkavalier is at first glimpse a comic opera, but look closer and deeper themes emerge.
Based on the 1787 dramatic poem by Friedrich Schiller, Verdi’s Don Carlo dangerously intertwines politics and religion and love in 16th century Spain. Nicholas Hytner’s acclaimed Royal Opera production returns to the Covent Garden in Spring 2017. Oedipe has been a ‘neglected masterpiece’, says conductor Leo Hussain ahead of The Royal Opera’s first-ever production of George Enescu’s only opera.
After its premiere in Paris in 1936, the opera has received only sporadic performances and has been seen rarely outside the Romanian composer’s home country, something that puzzles Hussain. But when such challenges are eclipsed, as will be the case next month in Covent Garden, Hussain is certain that many in their seats will also soon be baffled by how long it’s taken them to discover Oedipe’s ‘extraordinary’ music.
The score calls for saxophone solos that sound ‘plaintive and haunting’, orchestral passages that resemble the ‘slightly faded grandeur of early Hollywood epics’, and ‘quite extreme, quite chromatic’ harmonies that lend a ‘very eerie, very strange colour’. Enescu’s musical genius apart, Hussain believes that Oedipe’s exquisite melodic phrasing and rich orchestral writing were also the results of the long gestation period of the opera. Moreover, Hussain believes that Enescu spent 22 years writing the opera because, quite simply, he was a ‘very, very busy man’ who also had to juggle a demanding schedule of concert tours all over the world.
It is a co-production with La Monnaie, Brussels and is generously supported by the Monument Trust, Richard and Ginny Salter, The Romanian Cultural Institute and The Friends of Covent Garden. Katie Mitchell’s new Royal Opera production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world at 7.15pm BST on 25 April 2016.
Download the Lucia di Lammermoor Digital Programme for free using the promo code FREELUCIA and enjoy a range of specially selected films, articles, pictures and features to bring you closer to the production. Please note this production includes scenes featuring sex and violence, and is not suitable for anyone under the age of 15.
In order to preserve the ailing Lammermoor fortune, Enrico is determined that his sister Lucia marries advantageously and plots for her to marry Arturo. Edgardo returns to find Lucia wed to Arturo and, devastated by her infidelity, vows eternal hatred. Mitchell’s production sees the stage split in two with complementary scenes added to focus on the female characters of Lucia and her maid Alisa. The score was also a key point in opera history through its role in the rise and fall of the prima donna in that it rests on their talents but also marked the beginning of the end of their dominance of the stage. The live relay of Lucia di Lammermoor stars German soprano Diana Damrau in the title role, with American tenor Charles Castronovo singing the role of Edgardo and French baritone Ludovic Tezier as Enrico. After the relay on 25 April, we will publish a roundup of the audience tweets, so share your thoughts using the hashtag #ROHlucia. Lucia di Lammermoor will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 25 April 2016. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list. The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Helene and Jean Peters, Mrs Philip Kan, The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover Awards. Richard Wagner’s Tannhauser contains few arias, but the small number it has are all remarkable for their beauty.
Wolfram initially sings in arioso (between speech and song), reflecting on the darkness of the evening to melancholy, low-pitched music, accompanied by slow funereal chords in the brass.
Only in the final phrases of the aria, as the string accompaniment changes from arpeggios to more agitated tremolos, and the funereal horns return, do we feel that Wolfram’s sorrow may overcome him. Wagner’s principal male characters – with a few exceptions – tend to be combative types, at odds with society. The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Dr and Mrs Michael West, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Maggie Copus, Peter and Fiona Espenhahn, Malcolm Herring, the Tannhauser Production Syndicate and the Wagner Circle.
The musician Heinrich Tannhauser leaves his home in the Wartburg to become the consort of the goddess Venus. Wagner based the story of Tannhauser on the 16th-century poem Das Lied von dem Danheuser, and its satirical adaptation by Heinrich Heine.
Tim Albery’s production highlights the dilemma of Tannhauser, caught between two contrasting worlds, both of which have their delights and their dangers. The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Dr and Mrs Michael West, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Maggie Copus, Peter and Fiona Espenhahn, Malcolm Herring, The Metherell family, the Tannhauser Production Syndicate and the Wagner Circle. The future of opera, and the role of technology within it, is a question that for some time has been at the forefront of my mind, both as a PhD researcher and an opera lover.


The potential of live cinema broadcasts of opera and ballet – which bring the art forms to life via 21st-century technology from companies including the Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera  – is awesome. However, opera cinema audiences in particular are mostly made up of seasoned veterans, the kinds of folk who know their Traviatas from their Toscas. Why, you might ask, would anyone with a budding interest in opera pass up the opportunity to watch their first production on the stage? My subjects watched John Fulljames’s Royal Opera production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in the Covent Garden auditorium and a cinema of their choosing. The result is that we don’t give much thought to the value of opera cinema as a cultural experience in its own right. Secondly, I wanted to ascertain whether certain aspects of opera cinema (such as the perception of greater ‘accessibility’, familiarity and comfort) would resonate with my opera virgins, perhaps fostering increased enthusiasm for attending a staged production. The second group was made up of people for whom opera was both aesthetically and culturally intimidating: old-fashioned, ‘stuffy’ and esoteric – in short, not for them. Finally, a significant minority of ‘opera cinephiles’ seemed genuinely to prefer opera in the cinema. I’m currently in the process of expanding my research outside of London, introducing Hereford and Hertfordshire audiences to the operatic world via live-streaming.
We’re not there yet, but given the right nudge it is not inconceivable that the silver screen might become the popular point of entry for the opera-curious.
The Royal Opera House and King’s College London are partnering to research opera in cinemas. The Royal Opera will present a concert performance of Musorgsky's Boris Godunov on 16 July as part of the BBC Proms 2016. Following Richard Jones' acclaimed staging earlier this Season at the Royal Opera House, the performance at the Royal Albert Hall will star Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in the title role. Other operas performed as part of this year's programme include Glyndebourne's The Barber of Seville on 25 July and Mark Elder performing Semiramide with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on 4 September.
Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is perhaps best-known for Lucia’s Act III Mad Scene – but the Act II sextet ‘Chi mi frena in tal momento’ is almost as famous.
Shortly before the sextet begins, Lucia has been tricked by her brother Enrico into believing her lover Edgardo (Enrico’s sworn enemy) is unfaithful; Enrico forces her to marry his political ally Arturo. The sextet opens with a duet between Edgardo and Enrico, in which Edgardo expresses pity and enduring love for Lucia, and Enrico expresses remorse for his treachery. The textures become richer still as the chorus join in (doubled by Arturo and Lucia’s companion Alisa – in terms of solo lines the sextet is really a quartet), expressing fear and pity for Lucia. In the ensuing section – a bridge between the sextet and the finale – the male characters’ energy and purpose returns, with steady figures in the strings providing a sense of constant momentum. Lucia di Lammermoor’s Act II sextet and finale is both the most musically complex section of the opera, and a moving and convincing depiction of a range of passionate emotions. Lucia di Lammermoor will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 25 April 2016. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list. Mostly shot in gloomy grays, blacks and whites, and showed the dark and inhumane side of human nature with cynicism and doomed love, and they emphasized the brutal, unhealthy, seamy, shadowy, dark and sadistic sides of the human experience. Film noir probably reached it’s peak in the late 1940s, although there were very good films made in the 1950s. Mineral water doesn’t really work.’ The best tone and dynamic is produced with cold water,’ says Marguerre. Long distance runners often claim that feats of stamina are transformative events, something that will resonate with opera fans who relish the power of the repertory's lengthier works.
Taking place over five hours, in its recent staging at the Barbican, audiences were allowed to enter and exit when they pleased during the performance.
He believes that the piece has not only been forgotten for too long, but that it quite rightly deserves to become part of the operatic repertory: ‘I find it very difficult to find any artistic reason for its neglect', he says. The icing on the cake comes at the end of the opera, which features a piece of music that according to Hussain is ‘one of the most beautiful, moving and thrilling arias that exists. The composer made his first sketches of the piece in 1910 but it was only in 1932 that the opera was finished, partly on account of its creator's obsession with detail. His instructions on how to play notes, for example, don’t simply employ the customary range of six dynamics, from pianissimo to fortissimo. He wasn’t only the composer who created ‘a national music of Romania’; he was also a ‘real virtuoso’ at the violin, an ‘extraordinary’ conductor, a proficient pianist and a music writer – in short, ‘one of the most complete musicians of the 20th century’. Once he has departed, Enrico tricks Lucia into believing he has been unfaithful and forces her to sign a contract promising herself to Arturo. The English director sets the new production between 1830-40 to coincide with the emergence of early feminists including the Bronte sisters and Mary Anning. It was rapturously applauded at the opera’s premiere, went on to influence such composers as Verdi.
Best known perhaps is Wolfram’s Act III aria ‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’, his hymn to the Evening Star. He loves Elisabeth, but accepts her fidelity to Tannhauser, and devotes all his efforts to bringing the couple together. The aching dissonances as he describes the soul yearning to escape the world convey his sorrow at Elisabeth’s approaching death. On the one hand, the often chromatic melodic lines and the delicate ornamentation of the word ‘Engel’ (angel) reflect Wolfram’s love for Elisabeth and pain at losing her. However, he masters himself in the final bars, and closes his aria in an exquisite pianissimo (very soft) final phrase. Wolfram, like Hans Sachs, is unusual in his acceptance of his fate, and his determination to help others, even if he himself suffers in the process. Growing tired of her hedonistic realm, he decides to return to his old life and his former beloved, Elisabeth.
As so often, Wagner substantially altered the story for his operatic adaptation, in this case by adding the characters of the loyal and long-suffering Wolfram (based on a real German poet), and Elisabeth, who saves Tannhauser through her unselfish love. The opera also contains some of Wagner’s most brilliant writing for chorus, such as the regal ‘Freudig begrussen wir die edle Halle’ that opens the Act II singing contest, and Act III’s radiant finale. The hedonistic, sensual atmosphere of the Venusberg has its sinister side (shown in the Act I ballet), while the Wartburg is austere and war-torn, the Hall of Song a ruin of a once-splendid building, where the Landgraf's men patrol with guns.
Presently, a whole generation of potential opera fans are coming of age in a time where world-class productions are relayed live to thousands of cinema screens across continental divides.


In the space of just a few years, the Royal Opera House’s annual ‘virtual audience’ already outstrips its auditorium attendance. What does the popcorn-munching mundanity of the multiplex have to offer over the presence of live performers working their magic under the proscenium arch? As part of a preliminary experiment for my ongoing PhD project, I invited 20 members of the public (of mixed ages, genders and backgrounds) to lose their operatic virginities – for science.
I then had them compare their experiences, specifying what they liked and disliked about both settings.
Firstly, the whole discourse around opera in cinemas is based on (usually negative) comparison with the stage. The first (whom I dubbed ‘new purists’) fell immediately head-over-heels in love with opera, but insisted that it belonged on the stage. This was partly for the reasons I anticipated (increased comfort, enhanced legibility of the drama and so on). My initial findings suggest that opera cinema at the very least has the potential to introduce successfully newcomers to the form, in addition to engaging existing opera audiences on its own merits. Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez will perform at the Last Night of the Proms on 10 September. Prior to booking opening, bookers will need to complete a Proms plan via the Royal Albert Hall website.
It was rapturously applauded at the opera’s premiere, went on to influence such composers as Verdi and was one of the first ever opera ensembles to be recorded. The moment Lucia signs the wedding contract she feels a terrible foreboding, highlighted by dramatic orchestral tremolos. The men’s closely linked vocal lines show how, for the first time, these two enemies are united in compassion. As the emotional temperature rises, Lucia’s increasingly broken phrases and anguished repeated high notes show her deepening distress.
Arturo and Enrico square up to their old enemy Edgardo, who vows not to leave without a struggle. Edgardo repeatedly curses Lucia in a high-lying, declamatory line; she can only respond with a wordless cry to his furious ‘May God destroy you!’.
For Enescu that wasn't enough - he also wants the music to be heard ben [quite] piano, ben forte or poco [little] forte.
Enescu may indeed have struggled to find the time to write another opera, but Hussain is pleased that Oedipe is the one he did.
When in Act III Elisabeth decides to die in order to save Tannhauser’s soul, he accepts her decision, rather than urging her to forget her absent beloved. But as Wolfram catches sight of the Evening Star, he takes comfort in its light, marked by ethereal high tremolo strings, delicate musical textures and the quickening, higher vocal line. On the other, the aria’s formal structure, with its steady harp and string accompaniment (reminiscent of various Italian bel canto arias), regular eight-bar phrases, measured pace and muted dynamics show how Wolfram keeps his emotions firmly under control – he is, after all, the same man whose song in praise of chaste love in the Act II Song Contest so riled the passionate Tannhauser. The orchestra quietly echoes the aria’s opening melody – until the arrival of the tormented Tannhauser shatters the meditative atmosphere.
Never is his stoicism more movingly displayed than in ‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’, both an expression of his devotion to Elisabeth, and an example of how a musician can express such devotion, and perhaps find some solace, through their art. Wagner rewrote the opera for Paris in 1861, adding a ballet (and breaking Parisian tradition by having it in Act I), enlarging the Venusberg scene and cutting Walther’s Act II aria. For instance, the visual language of cinema provides an unparalleled level of intimacy and detail.
As one respondent put it: ‘until you’ve seen an opera in an opera house, you haven’t seen an opera’. What I hadn’t banked on was a certain sense of ‘philanthropic’ value, wherein subjects praised the Royal Opera House for making its productions more readily available. Its fame is easy to understand: the sextet, and its ensuing finale, are archetypal examples of beautiful, complex music used at a crucial dramatic turning point. She is right to do so – seconds later, Edgardo bursts in, interrupting the wedding party and briefly shocking everyone into silence. This heightens still further in the sextet’s closing bars as – following a short unaccompanied passage for her still-remorseful brother and lover – she soars to her highest note in the sextet, closing the ensemble in a mood of profound despair. Raimondo breaks in, reminding everyone to slow, majestic chords that ‘God abhors murderers’. The chorus, Enrico, Raimondo and Arturo launch into the stretta (rapid concluding passage, here in the rhythm of a fiery tarantella), repeatedly ordering Edgardo to leave. Everything that happens in Act III – Arturo’s murder, Lucia’s collapse and subsequent death and Edgardo’s suicide – are a direct result of this scene’s action. It is more Italianate than is usual for Wagner, arguably modelled on the preghiera (prayer) aria popular in bel canto and Verdi. Even when Elisabeth refuses to let him accompany her on her final journey home, Wolfram makes no protest, and instead remains alone as she leaves to delicate, ecclesiastical-sounding chords in the woodwind. A third version, for Vienna (the version performed by The Royal Opera) had its first performance in 1875. For the same ticket price, every member of the opera cinema audience enjoys privileged access to the stage action.
In a poignant aside, Lucia and Edgardo sing lyrically in unison, Lucia praying for Edgardo’s safety, Edgardo longing for death.
It it one of Wagner’s very few arias for baritone, rather than his more usual writing for the lower bass-baritone (the Dutchman, Wotan, Hans Sachs) or bass (Daland, Hagen, Gurnemanz). Their lamentations soar above the chorus’s furious denunciations as the finale speeds to its frantic end, closing with a final high-pitched cry of anguish from Lucia.
The sextet grows richer in texture and the range of emotions expand as we discover each character’s reaction to the shocking event. In a dramatic unaccompanied phrase, Edgardo declares that Lucia has betrayed both Heaven and love.



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