For those who can't get to Covent Garden, the Met or any of the other great opera houses of the world live streaming is a wonderful thing. I'm not going to say that it is the next best thing to being there because in some respects it is better. It doesn't cost as much for a start and sometimes you get insights into the production through interviews with the artists, choreographers, composers, conductors and others that you would never get in any other way. The broadcasts from the Met are particularly good in that regard.
But it is not the same thing because two ingredients of a live performance are missing. First, there is no interaction with the artists. You can't clap or at least you can but you will attract a lot of funny looks. There is not a lot of point because nobody on the stage can hear you. And you certainly can't shower flowers on the stage as you could when there was a flower market at Covent Garden. Secondly you see what the camera takes you to. Great close ups but ballet is intended to be appreciated as a whole from seat G5 in the stalls or even the upper slips of the amphitheatre.
Tonight's broadcast of the Royal Ballet's Don Quixote from the Royal Opera House to cinemas in 21 countries including the Huddersfield Odeon had some very good points. Great choreography by the multi-talented Carlos Acosta and also great dancing from him as Basilio, Marianela Nunez as Kitri, Ryoichi Hirano as Espada. Laura Morera as Mercedes and Elizabeth Harrod as Amour. The set, costumes, lighting and musical arrangements were sumptuous but these are difficult to appreciate from a distance and indeed in a different medium.
One plus perhaps of cinema is that I saw a lot more of the character dancers than I would have done in the auditorium. For me they were the best part of the show. Character dancing has always been something that the Royal Ballet has done better than any other company - possibly because audiences here are brought up on pantomime. Remember Robert Helpmann and Fred Ashton as the two ugly sisters in Cinderella or Wayne Sleep in just abut any role. Well Gary Avis, Philip Mosley and above all Christopher Saunders are carrying on that great tradition.
But I left the cinema less than satisfied. Why? It may be because I am spoilt. I have seen a lot of ballet lately and when you have seen the real thing nothing else will quite do. As I entered the auditorium an usher was offering wine together with ice cream and popcorn. "You always have wine with ballet" she said. That got me thinking. Ballet in Covent Garden and ballet in Huddersfield Odeon are two different things. As different in their way as fillet steak is from hamburger.