OPERA ON AIR

BBC Music Magazine - - LETTERS - Don­ald Mackin­non, New­port Jan Younghus­band, Head of Com­mis­sion­ing for BBC Mu­sic Tele­vi­sion

When Tony Hall moved four years ago from run­ning the Royal Opera House to be­ing direc­torgen­eral of the BBC, a friend of mine (no lover of clas­si­cal mu­sic) grum­bled, ‘Now I sup­pose we’ll have wall-to-wall opera on BBC Four.’ He could not have been more wrong. Apart from the an­nual feast of the Proms, clas­si­cal mu­sic has prac­ti­cally dis­ap­peared from BBC tele­vi­sion. This is a real loss, es­pe­cially for opera. Ra­dio 3 still does its best for mu­sic in the con­cert hall, but opera de­mands to be seen as well as heard.

A de­press­ing sign of the times was BBC tele­vi­sion’s re­cent treat­ment of Opera North’s widely ac­claimed pro­duc­tion of Wag­ner’s Ring. The en­tire cy­cle was broad­cast on Ra­dio 3 last year, but when it came to tele­vi­sion, only Das Rhein­gold was ac­tu­ally broad­cast. The other three parts were rel­e­gated from the start to iplayer. Even

Sky Arts did bet­ter than that when, last year, it broad­cast the en­tire Ring cy­cle from Bayreuth.

I ap­pre­ci­ate that opera lovers are a mi­nor­ity – prob­a­bly a small mi­nor­ity of tele­vi­sion view­ers – and I would not ar­gue that opera should be given equal time with rock and pop. But should it be ne­glected al­to­gether? mar­ket with a great deal of choice, au­di­ences choose when and how they want to view the things they love. Putting the Opera North

Ring cy­cle on the iplayer was a de­lib­er­ate choice in or­der to make it more con­ve­nient to watch.

We have been do­ing more doc­u­men­taries about opera in which we try to bring new in­sights about mu­sic to the viewer.

This au­tumn we have an opera sea­son which I hope you will en­joy: we an­nounced de­tails of some of the pro­grammes ear­lier this year and fur­ther an­nounce­ments are com­ing.

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