Streaming gives opera a new stage

Hit hard by the pandemic, streaming is a lifeline for the arts, but requires technology infrastructure investment.


A night at the opera no longer means travelling to the great opera houses of Vienna, London, Paris or Sydney. Streaming of opera productions was already growing in popularity before Covid-19 silenced the world’s great operas, but in the post-pandemic economy, a digital night at the opera is set to increase in popularity. For the technology teams backstage, a new stage is being set as they modernise the technology estates to deliver impact both in the theatre and on screen.

Entertainment and media witnessed its largest drop in revenues in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Accountancy and business advisory group PWC reports a 3.8% decline in global revenues, box office revenues for movies fell by 71%. Physical distances prevented not only attendance to the opera and theatre, but also ended rehearsals and of course made the roles of set building, costumes and lighting impossible due to the need to work physically close to colleagues and performers. Early in the pandemic Cirque du Soleil, a theatrical circus performed in major theatre and opera houses in the main, had to make 95% of its workforce redundant.

Digital response

Many leading opera and artistic organisations responded in the same way as families and workers, deploying online video as the new stage from which to reach its audience - and in many cases a new audience, who, locked in their homes were open to experiencing new cultural outlets. Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre took its collection and archives online, and within a week reported over four million visits. The Paris Opera found earlier in 2021 that its plans to re-open in January could not take place, its performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Andrew Gretry and Chevalier de Saint-Georges were filmed and released via the Opera de Paris on-demand video site. A similar strategy was followed by Scotland’s Edinburgh International Festival in 2021. Whilst in the USA, the Lyric Opera of Chicago moved its production of Der Ring des Nibelungen to a car park, physical attendance was possible by driving from scene to scene, and non-drivers could watch a streamed version.

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