Opera, coming to a cinema near you

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 June, 2010, 12:00am

For soccer fans, the possibility of watching the World Cup in 3-D in cinemas is still in doubt. But opera buffs can rest assured there will be plenty of viewing on the big screen this month to interest them.

Chain operators UA Cinemas and MCL will be showing performances of Carmen, Aida, Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Turandot, captured live in high-definition format from the Metropolitan Opera of New York - and known as The Met: Live in HD.

It is the first time live opera has been shown in Hong Kong cinemas. The screenings began at the Bethanie in Pok Fu Lam in January. Now, organisers and cinemas want to bring the highbrow art form to the masses.

While one ticket at The Met costs up to US$375, cinemas will charge HK$150 per person for each three- to four-hour show - less than the price of a ticket to see Avatar. Tickets for students and seniors cost HK$100. The cinemas have scheduled 10 screenings from June 19.

MCL's general manager, June Wong, said the high-definition digital technology now available at cinemas made it possible to screen entertainment other than films - and showing operas was just the first step.

She noted that cinemas in Japan were already screening Noh, or Japanese opera. 'This will be a major trend,' she said.

Wong said introducing opera to a much wider audience would help promote arts and culture at a time when the city needs it most - with the first phase of the West Kowloon Cultural District expected to be completed in four to five years and plenty of seats to fill.

Laurence Scofield, chairman of the Foundation for the Arts and Music in Asia, which sponsors The Met: Live in HD in Hong Kong, said he hoped the cinema screenings of the shows would enlarge the audience for opera in Hong Kong.

He said most of the 27 screenings at the Bethanie had sold out.

The Met's opera shows cost US$300 million each to produce.

UA Cinemas general manager, Chan Chi-leung, said advance bookings have been strong and he hoped the screenings would make opera more popular in the city.

Watching the live opera performances filmed at The Met in a cinema would be a similar experience to actually being there in New York, Wong said.

The shows are captured on multiple high-definition cameras.

The screenings include an intermission, during which the audience can either take a break or watch behind-the-scenes footage.

The operas will be screened in the original Italian or French of the performances, but will include English subtitles.

Wong noted that under the existing law, drafted in the 1960s, cinemas can only show movies. She said the existing legislation needed to be amended to accommodate the rapidly developing digital era.

MCL has also been working to bring live concerts and sports events to cinemas, Wong said.