11,1% of Italy's viewing public tuned in to watch Andrea Chénier transmitted yesterday evening, live from La Scala.
2,077,000 viewers followed the production, with over 11 million people watching it for a while before changing channels to watch their favourite game show.
Italy is the home of opera, but people don't wander down the streets whistling melodies from Aida, so these numbers (especially for an opera not by Verdi or Puccini) are encouraging, as was seeing the battle among the under-30s to get tickets to the young people's preview performance; some even slept outside the theatre to be sure of getting a seat.
Bringing Andrea Chénier to La Scala as the inaugural opera of the season — said Alexander Pereira — is part of an ongoing project that the theatre is carrying out with its musical director Riccardo Chailly. We want to introduce Italians and international listeners to the richness of the musical repertoire of this country: an unequalled heritage spanning four centuries, and of which Verismo opera is a fundamental component.
The tradition of broadcasting the season's opening opera was interrupted during Riccardo Muti's time as musical director when the booers in the gods seemed to regard the possibility of disturbing a live broadcast as a sport. Then, with the availability of specialised digital channels, it came back but was tucked away for the traditional audience of arts on television. The pattern was broken last year when Madama Butterfly with Maria José Siri was broadcast on Rai1, Italy's first channel. The numbers even exceeded those of this year with an additional 2% of audience share.
The Rai's 12 HD cameras, 40 microphones in the orchestra pit and around the stage, and the 20 radiomics for the singers meant that viewers internationally were able to assist the opening night in cinemas, on the radio, and the Italians also on TV.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.