It used to be so simple. In the old days, if you couldn't get to see opera on stage, you waited a few months for Public Television to broadcast one. Now the opportunities have changed and live is everything. This fall, the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels has announced it will be video streaming all of its productions this season online, free of charge. Streaming begins after the last live performance of each opera, and is available for 21 days thereafter.
This is par for the course for the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, or simply La Monnaie, as it is known, which this month became the first opera company in a non-German speaking country to be named Opera House of the Year by Opernwelt, the respected German opera magazine.
As one of the few cultural institutions that receives financial support from the federal government of Belgium, La Monnaie has cultivated a distinctive production style, spread across rarities, premieres and standard fare. Case in point: in the first production of their upcoming season, Cherubini's Médée, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, the opera’s heroine is styled to look like a certain recently-deceased singer of another genre (see above).
La Monnaie is not the first opera company to stream its productions online. The Royal Opera House in London, the Bayreuth Festival and the Sydney Opera House have beamed their productions to fans over the Internet. The pioneer in the video arena may be the Metropolitan Opera, which told the New York Times this week it has balanced its budget, thanks partly to $11 million in profits last year from its HD movie theater transmissions.