Dear ROH, what does ‘live’ mean to you? [Updated]

15th January 2013

So here’s my beef. I have booked a ticket for tonight at the ever-excellent Clapham Picturehouse to watch the current Royal Opera House production of La bohème. This is being shown in – as you can see from the above – the ROH’s ‘Live Cinema Season’. If you take a look at that web page, there is – I think it’s fair to say – every indication that the showing is ‘live’. That is, that the events we will be watching in Clapham will be taking place at the same time on the stage in Covent Garden.

This after all is what we have come to expect with Met Opera: Live in HD and NTLive – and certainly there is nothing on the web page to say that this is not the case. Ditto on the next page, which is where ‘Read more’ takes you to further details. Indeed, you have to download the .pdf cast sheet to discover that this performance is in fact ‘delayed live’. Which means not live at all, despite being part of a ‘Live Cinema Season’. I feel conned.

‘Live’ means live – and it makes a fundamental difference to broadcasts of operas and plays in cinemas. In the audience we crave the sense that this is happening with us and for us, even if it’s four miles away or for that matter, four thousand. We want to feel that we are sharing the experience, albeit at one remove, and we want all the thrills – and the possible problems – of a live performance. ‘Delayed live’ just doesn’t cut it. And to feature a ‘delayed live’ production, edited together from two recordings made last week, at the centre of a ‘Live Cinema Season’ falls short of the high standards I expect from one of our leading cultural organisations.

Update: Well, not my Tweets nor this blog nor comments on the ROH FB page have elicited any response from the Royal Opera House, but those very nice people at Clapham Picturehouse have replied on Twitter.  First off they Tweeted this…

“Apologies. It was originally intended to be ‘live’ live, but due to lack of satellite space today, it was recorded on Thurs.”

… and then they followed up with this:

“The performance is going out unedited as it would have looked on the night. We hope you enjoy it!”

Which (a) makes me think even more of the great Clapham Picturehouse, and (b) prompts me to ask how on earth the ROH can put together a ‘live’ cinema event and not book the satellite until too late. Although I’m still puzzled because actually on the main ROH stage tonight is The Nutcracker.

Update 2, a little later: now the Royal Opera House has replied to my FB comments:

“Unfortunately sometimes due to scheduling, we’re unable to relay live and so tonight’s broadcast will be as live – played out without cuts and time edits from Covent Garden as it was recorded. Hope you enjoy the performance.’

But that still doesn’t explain how a ‘Live Cinema’ showing of La bohéme is scheduled and advertised on a night when The Nutcracker is on stage at the Royal Opera House.


  1. Duncan says:

    The second page of the pdf cast sheet continues to refer to a “Live cinema relay”.

  2. Nick Hennessey says:

    I feel exactly the same way as you John. I saw last night’s ‘live’ broadcast, paying substantially more than a usual cinema ticket price under the impression it was coming directly from the stage at the ROH. I feel cheated. It was quite simply not what it implied it was. ‘Delayed live’ means NOT live!

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