Cinema: Culture's Greatest Asset?

18/04/2012 14:12 BST | Updated 17/06/2012 10:12 BST

Cinema, recently, has become an utterly brilliant cultural asset: That great production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle with the sharp-jawed Benedict Cumberbatch, that I unfortunately missed, well, it turns out I can go and see it in my local cinema, which therefore means I haven't missed out at all.

Further from home it also means I don't have to go globe-trotting to see some of the world's great concerts and operas.

Of course, I'd probably rather go globe-trotting and have been known to catch a last minute flight to some extravagant European city to see some opera; sometimes one can get bored of the constant London obsession with David McVicar revivals - however this type of trip too often puts huge dents in my bank account and means I'll probably have to skip a cocktail or two at Soho House.

In these circumstances, what could be better than a streamed opera straight to your local cinema? Well, nothing.

This recent venture seems to have become epidemical with opera companies beaming their productions on the tinterweb, the television and in the cinemas and in some extreme cases in squares and public territory (referring to the Royal Opera House's screenings in Trafalgar Square and around the country). There now seems to be no reason why anyone should miss anything. Which is brilliant.

My most recent cinematic adventure consisted of Gustavo Dudamel's Mahler Project with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic from Venezuela involving over 1000 performers in one of the biggest performances of the mammoth work that is Mahler's Symphony Number 8 aka. 'Symphony for a Thousand. This is, by far, an utterly overwhelming work and to see this particular performance was pant-wettingly amazing.

But is the use of cinema to show classical music and opera the future? Hmmm, probably.

Companies are investing huge amounts in television and cinema showings and they are reaping in the benefits. From a business perspective this works marvellously but, more importantly, the opera houses and concert halls, orchestras and television channels are reaching out to audiences, old and new. Their hand extends from the screen and says "C'mon, it's ok, come and explore", therefore making this art form, one well known for its backward thoughts, snobbery and tradition, more accessible than ever before; who knows, perhaps these projects are bringing in punters to the houses themselves.

People will say, inevitably, that this is absurd but actually classical music needs to keep up with modern technology and the growth of tinterweb streaming and the audience and money that generates profit and sustainability as well as creating artistic legacies and ultimately entertainment.

There is so much to see and hear: The international music scene, which we see and hear a lot of in London, is huge and has so much to offer. If you haven't been down to your local cinema to see something you may have missed or indeed cannot get to than I recommend to check out some listings. The Metropolitan Opera in New York frequently stream their operas live in high definition to cinemas around the country as do the Royal Opera in London. Why not enjoy the best seat in the house without paying a fortune, though, I will argue that live experiences are always the best, not all of us have the budget to go to hear everything.

Luckily for classical music fans in Bristol, Derby, Leicester, Reading and Bluewater (Kent) Showcase Cinemas will be showing the performance of Gustavo Dudamel's outstanding performance of the monumentally overwhelming work that is Mahler's Symphony Number 8 that I saw at the end of last week.

For more information on those performances and to book tickets visit: