performing arts on television


performing arts on television
   Television coverage of performing arts is varied. The BBC is far more likely than independent television companies to screen ballet, opera or classical music, and BBC2 is its preferred channel for these programmes. Some avant-garde work is produced on Channel 4. Other stations’ ‘high culture’ presentations extend only as far as good quality made-for-television drama (Jane Austen/ George Eliot) and arts programmes such as The Late Show. Populist stage shows like Riverdance are televised, and Later With Jools Holland contains a varied and impressive mix of live music. Regional channels of the BBC and ITV (especially Welsh ones) and also S4C often have operatic and orchestral company performances. The annual Eisteddfod has full coverage on S4C. Satellite television presents very little in these programme areas, though there is an arts channel on cable television.
   Such ballet as appears on television is confined to BBC2 and Channel 4. The latter tends to deal more with contemporary dance, showcasing such companies as Spiral Dance and offering ten-minute dance slots, but BBC2 also shows original work. For example, in prime time in 1998 it screened Urban Clan by Aboriginal choreographer Stephen Page, performed by the Bangarra Dance Theatre of Sydney, and Maguy Marin’s interpretation of Coppelia.
   One of the most notorious television interventions into the world of opera occurred with the showing of The House: Inside the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1995. This fly-on-the-wall six-part documentary was made by Double Exposure for BBC2, with the permission of the then director Jeremy Isaacs. Critics felt he had been naive in allowing this to happen, as it exposed the inefficiencies and internal wranglings of a bastion of high culture at a time when it was under attack for its supposed elitism and blithe disregard for commercial considerations.
   Glyndebourne, by contrast, was thriving, and unlike the homeless Royal Opera House it rebuilt its auditorium on time, to budget and without government subsidy. Channel 4 under Michael Grade televised the acclaimed production of Janácek’s The Makropoulos Case from there in 1996. Wagner’s Ring Cycle was also shown in 1997. As regards classical music, events like the Young Musician of the Year and the Leeds Piano Competition are always covered on television, and a staple of BBC1 programming is the Promenade Concerts televised from the Albert Hall, London, hosted in 1998 by James Naughtie. The annual broadcast of the Last Night of the Proms, with its staple fare including ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, is one of the rare occasions when high popular culture and television coincide.
   MIKE STORRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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