Changes

Changes

To Clapham Picturehouse for Saturday night’s Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcast of Puccini’s La bohème. And “live” it most certainly was, for only around five hours earlier soprano Kristine Opolais replaced flu-stricken Anita Hartig in the main role of Mimi. Host Joyce DiDonato mentioned this in her opening remarks and then the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb went out in front of the curtain to explain the change to the house and, although he made no mention of the cameras, to the rest of the world. What made the occasion all the more remarkable was that Ms Opolais had debuted in the title role of Madame Butterfly just the previous night. The soprano went to sleep at 5am and was woken with Gelb’s request some two and a half hours later, as the New York Times reports. She acquitted herself thrillingly well, making it all rather extraordinary. And for those of us interested in live cinema the broadcast had several other notable aspects.
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Still here and now

Still here and now

On his blog Modern Art Notes the smart, provocative and always readable critic Tyler Green publishes The Monday Checklist, an invaluable weekly round-up of the visual arts. He notes new reviews, highlights Twitter and Tumblr feeds and draws attention to interesting print and digital publications. In this week’s post he links to the new online site 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated – and here I want simply to underscore Tyler Green’s recommendation and muse a bit on why I think the 1959 presentation is so interesting. First, here’s some background in the form of a film that accompanies 1959, but if you’ve never heard of Clyfford Still it might be worth reading the Wikipedia entry before watching:


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The making of the Henry IV trailer

The making of the Henry IV trailer

On Friday the Royal Shakespeare Company launched the trailer for their new productions of Henry IV Parts I and II:

Following November’s successful showing of Richard II, these new stagings will be broadcast in cinemas for Live from Stratford-upon-Avon on 14 May and 18 June in Britain, and then over the following months abroad. The broadcasts are produced by the RSC, as is the trailer, and not by Illuminations, but I am involved as the producer – and I thought it might be insteresting to share some notes about how the Henry IV trailer came together.
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An afternoon at the opera

An afternoon at the opera

3pm, and Screen 1 at Cineworld Wandsworth is perhaps one-sixth full. I am waiting for neither The Lego Movie nor Mr Peabody and Sherman - those cinemas have rather more people in them – but rather the ENO’s stand-out Peter Grimes with Stuart Skelton (above) live from the Coliseum. ‘Twas but twenty months ago that ENO artistic director John Berry told The Stage that screening productions in cinemas ‘is of no interest to me. It is not a priority. It doesn’t create new audiences either… this obsession about putting work out into the cinema can distract from making amazing quality work.’ Yet here is the company in a new partnership to screen productions in cinemas with the rather anonymous altivemedia group. Now clearly, given my close association with RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon (which is in a similar space for theatre) I’m the last person to judge this first outing objectively. Even so, here are my brief thoughts on how they got on.
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Second thoughts, and a first look, part 2

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 2

Digital Theatre were kind enough to invite me to the premiere last night at Cineworld Haymarket of their new recording of Private Lives (above). Perhaps it was unfortunate that, as I wrote in part 1 of this post, I went with the images and sounds of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon vivid in my memory. Noel Coward’s comedy is a very different beast from Shakespeare’s lyric tragedy, and the respective approaches to translating a stage production to the screen are different too. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but make comparisons throughout. Nor can my comparisons be in any sense objective, given my deep implication in the cinema broadcasts from Stratford. Yet it seems important that those of us involved in this hybrid form of ‘live cinema’ begin to develop a critical dialogue about what it is we’re doing and what – beyond the box-office – makes for success or failure.
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Second thoughts, and a first look, part 1

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 1

At lunchtime on Sunday I sat in the front row of Screen 2 at the Barbican watching – for the first time on a big screen since November – Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon. Tonight I sat in the front row of Screen 3 of Cineworld Haymarket at the premiere of Digital Theatre’s screen version of Private Lives. Two months on from making Richard II I’m still trying to organise my thoughts about it, and doubtless I’ll continue musing on Private Lives, in part because it takes such a different approach to translating a stage play for the screen. But I can’t help but say that I was once again thrilled by what the team achieved with Richard II - and remember Henry IV part one is to be broadcast on 14 May (above) - and a touch disappointed by Private Lives.
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‘Yet looks he like a king!’

‘Yet looks he like a king!’

The RSC has posted a 5-minute extract from Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon on YouTube and elsewhere, and I am delighted to embed it here. This is part of Act IV Scene 1, the deposition scene, and it gives a strong sense of the ‘look’ of the live broadcast, although inevitably it shrinks the experience from the big screen and cannot do justice to the sound mix. Below I am just starting out on a discussion of the very particular screen language of this live presentation.


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‘Let us share thy thoughts’

‘Let us share thy thoughts’

Last night saw the first round of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon Encore screenings. Which meant that I woke up to another round of wonderfully enthusiastic #RSCRichardII Twitter responses. The RSC has had a brilliant response to its request for feedback of all kinds, including the online survey here. Some of the most detailed accounts of what people thought and how the experience might be improved are on personal blogs – and these reports are invaluable to us. Below I have linked to and excerpted from nine of those that I have tracked down so far. (You can also find a full page of review and resource links here.) It can be quite hard finding blog posts like this – they tend to be a long way down in Google searches – so if there are others out there, do please let me know.

Update: in advance of the US screenings Entertainment Weekly has posted a 5-minute ‘teaser’ extract from the broadcast.


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‘… and there an end’

‘… and there an end’

Slowly trying to make sense of last night. In many ways the broadcast was immaculate – it looked great and, in the OB truck, it sounded great. There were no significant problems in Stratford but I know that a small number of cinemas around the country had local difficulties. A very few screenings were cancelled and one or two other cinemas had problems with the sound. With the RSC’s distribution partner Picturehouse Entertainment we are investigating where we can. But in most venues it seems to have been a bit of a triumph. Through this evening I aim to draw together some of the reactions and add a few first reflections.
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‘Think what you will’ [Updated]

‘Think what you will’ [Updated]

This is the post I’m using to chronicle events up to Wednesday evening; you can also follow how things are unfolding via @livefromSuA, @TheRSC and @Illuminations.

6.11pm
Everyone is returning and we’re about to do a final check on the insert films and the top of the show. I think I’ll sign off now – and wish everyone a great show!

6.04pm
I’m almost alone in the OB truck. Everyone else is at the spicy chilli. How worried should I be with less than 45 minutes before we start transmitting? At some point I’m going to stop Tweeting and start “producing”, although I’m not entirely sure that I know the difference between the two activities.

5.55pm
And, gentle readers, this is me – in the latest production diary, filmed on Monday… many thanks to James Oprey and his RSC colleagues for this and all the other excellent diary pieces, as well as tonight’s two insert films.


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