Last week in a first for me, JF and I tried out event cinema in France. We spent the evening at Covent Garden, along with Darcey Bussell, Fiona Bruce and Carlos Acosta but this didn’t involve flights, hotels and expensive tickets; we didn’t leave France, in fact we didn’t even leave our own local area. In the somewhat shabby 1970s surrounds of the Alma Cinema at the CIV lycée in Sophia-Antipolis/Valbonne, a place where I’m more used to watching student plays and attending parents’ meetings, we were transported to the glamour and excitement of a live ballet performance from the Royal Opera House in London.
We went to watch a quadruple bill of 4 very different ballets from The Royal Ballet relayed live from London. I liked the idea of 4 short dances rather than one long one to ease me back into classical ballet as I must admit it’s been a few years since I last saw one. But little did I know what a treat we were in for, for it turned out we were witnessing The Royal Ballet’s lead male star Carlos Acosta perform for the last time at the ROH and he’d created a very special version of Carmen especially for the night. But more on that later.
First let me explain a bit more about how in fact we managed to watch a live performance from London in a cinema in France. Event Cinema, as it’s known, aims to bring the best in cultural entertainment – live opera and ballet, dynamic art exhibitions and theatre productions – to everyone, no matter where they live, at the affordable price of a local cinema ticket. The idea is to democratise what is often seen as elite entertainment. There are cinemas dotted across France (and the world, in fact more than 10,000 screens in over 70 countries participate in the scheme run by the Arts Alliance) and I happen to be lucky enough that my nearest is just down the road at my son’s school!
As I mentioned already, the cinema itself is a little tired, but the seats are super comfy and the sound quality is good. I didn’t really know what to expect with the actual live relay. I wondered what would happen during the long intervals, long enough for patrons at the Royal Opera House to stand in enormous queues for the loo and bar, remembering that the last time I was actually at Covent Garden I bumped into an old school friend I hadn’t seen for 15 years or so in one of those queues! There’d be no glass of bubbly or a pot of ice-cream for us at CIV cinema and JF and I joked that we should have brought our own. But we needn’t have worried. Of course we weren’t left just to twiddle our thumbs (and tweet our thoughts!) as the intervals, and time before the performance started, were filled with juicy extras like interviews with choreographers, glimpses behind the scenes and even a chat with Carlos Acosta himself. The BBC’s Fiona Bruce and ex-Prima Ballerina Darcey Bussell presented the evening, talking to the Director of The Royal Ballet and keeping us entertained. It was an added bonus that viewers inside the Opera House didn’t get and it well and truly made up for lack of atmosphere in the basic local cinema.
Back to the performances. I’m no ballet critic, I’m not an expert in dance at all, but I know what I like and I adored the programme. It was such a treat to watch world class ballet, to be immersed in the show and genuinely feel like we were there, inside the ROH in London. Shots of the audience settling into their seats as the lights dimmed set the scene and with the arrival of the conductor I forgot I was in the cinema. The perfectly clear sound really could have been coming from a live orchestra just a few rows ahead of me instead of a thousand miles away. At quiet moments it was possible to hear the tap tap tap of the ballerinas’ points scuttling across the floor, and the odd cough from the audience; sounds which made it “real”, sounds which I feel would have been edited out had this just been a film of a theatre performance.
And just as I felt we got more out of the evening from the behind the scenes films, I also loved the occasional close-ups of the dancers’ faces showing their emotions in heightened detail. I felt we had the best seats in the house. Acosta’s Carmen was the highlight for me – the set, lighting design and costumes were brilliantly simple, raw and beautiful. The musical adaptation of Bizet’s opera into 55 minutes with singers from the Royal Opera and drummers and guitarists on stage was dramatic, unusual and perfectly complemented the intense passion of the dance. I got goose bumps when the castanets rippled through the silence. But above all I felt it was a privilege to watch the greatest male dancer of a generation perform for the last time in one of the most magnificent theatres in the world. I felt I was there; what a night!
So while a night at the local cinema doesn’t have the excitement and sense of occasion as an evening at Covent Garden it doesn’t come with the hassle or the price-tag either. We left home half an hour before the show started, parked right outside the cinema for free and were home again 20 minutes after it ended. You’d have to live very, very centrally in London to be able to do that! And I haven’t even mentioned cost. Tickets at the Alma Cinema at the CIV are 12€ or 8€ for subscribers (subscription costs are 15€ individual, 25 € family, 5€ student), (prices elsewhere will vary.)
I went to this performance in my capacity as an Ambassador for the Arts Alliance and was kindly given 2 tickets for the purpose of review (but all opinions are my own). The aim of the Arts Alliance Ambassadors is to try and “increase access to the arts and help people understand that the barriers that might have stood in their way previously, such as cost, geography or simply believing that the arts weren’t for them, are no longer there”. I hope by reading this some of you might be tempted to go along to a future performance, either at the CIV or elsewhere in the world. In the words of Liam Scarlett, choreographer at The Royal Ballet, “dance is wonderful because it can be read and understood by everyone….the dancers are telling you something with their bodies and no matter what language you speak you can understand them“.
The next performance of the Royal Ballet at the CIV is The Nutcracker, and what’s Christmas without The Nutcracker? What a festive treat to look forward to, I can’t wait! It’s on Wednesday 16 December at 8.15pm (tickets from 7.30pm on the night, no advance booking available.)
For the full programme of upcoming events at the CIV check here (CIV also shows live relays from Milan, Rome and Venice).
On the Côte d’AZur there are also participating cinemas in Beaulieu sur Mer, Vence and Nice.
To find a cinema near you wherever you are in the world and get the programme check here.
Please excuse the quality of my photos, all taken on an ancient dying iPhone from the back of the cinema in the dark except the lovely first one (and Pin) provided by the Arts Alliance!
Thankyou so much Phoebe – I’m delighted to win the tickets and will take my daughter. My mum has been raving about these live performances for ages but this is the first time for us – really looking forward to it! Kind Regards and merry christmas…Sally x
Sally, you are the lucky winner of the 2 tickets! 🙂 I will email you but if you see this here before you get the email, please get in touch to organise your prize.
excellent Katie, you’re entered twice. 🙂
Would love to be on the draw for the CIV Valbonne, I’ve also shared. Thanks Phoebe
Thanks for the compliment Kate, please spread the word to all your ballet students!
How wonderful to see Fonteyn & Nureyev; what a dream! I’ll put you down for 2 entries for sharing. Thanks Carole!
OK Sigh, thanks for entering!
What a fantastic way to inspire the next generation of ballet dancers in our region :)! I try and do my bit by teaching ballet here but nothing quite beats seeing the Royal Ballet in action performing one of the most iconic ballets of all time.
The CIV is much easier than flying to London to go and see it!
Thanks for all your fab posts Phoebe.
This would be great! Thank you so much! CIV Valbonne
Thank you so much for giving me lots of information about the whole scheme on Facebook in Living on the Cote d’Azur. Have read your blog and like lots of others here am excited about seeing the Nutcracker here in our region. It’s such a special way of doing it and having wonderful performances piped to us in our comfortable seats at Valbonne. I did see Fonteyn and Nureyev live in Australia as a child and before that Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Robert Helpmann with a Ninette de Valois troupe. Very special moments which need adding to at this point in my life. Please enter me in the draw. @FibiTee Twitter, Lou Messugo Facebook
Yes Please! Enter me to win two tickets, CIV in Valbonne. Thanks!! Cy
Will do Kristine
Please enter us in the draw for CIV Valbonne. Thank you!
Great blog, Shared on facebook
My grandmother was a prima ballerina at royal opera house, Covent Gardens.
She was Margot Fontaines under Study.
Such a blessing to inherit her passion for Balet.
Love the Nutcracker.
Would love to see the show in ither screnes.
Have a very Happy Christmas
Thanks Penny, I’ve put your name in the hat.
Pleasure Toni BB. Shall I enter you for CIV?
Do give it a go Catherine, and tell me what you think.
Yes we’re the lucky ones indeed Sandy!
Perfect then, I’ll enter you for the CIV Rob! 🙂
That sounds fascinating indeed, those warhorse puppets are pretty amazing things. I’ll enter you twice for CIV Hilary, thanks for sharing.
Goodo RobinRock4, I’ll enter you into the draw.
The weblink is there Rosie, but perhaps it’s too subtle, I’ll change it to make it more obvious. I hope you find one near you and if not then why don’t you suggest it to your local cinema and get in touch with the Arts Alliance.
Wow – now I am jealous as I love ballet but have not been for years. I have no idea if we have any event cinemas up in Normandy … I shall have to investigate more. Do you have a web link as everything I have found so far is in Australia!
A delightful idea and so close to home. CIV Valbonne is perfect for us!
Thanks Phoebe for giving such a captivating account of this event. I went to see the live broadcast of ” The WarHorse” direct from the National Theatre last year – it was brillilant! In the interval they showed how the puppets were made and handled, fascinating! I have shared your entry and your link and would love to be entered for your draw!
What a Brilliant idea !
Out the girls would love to see their ballet heroes up close and this is a lot easier than flying to London
How wonderful to have a live performance of Ballet right here in our backyard! Look forward to it!
We have never been to our local cinema when it has a live performance. Obviously we should. I have probably missed Acosta. I’m sorry. Glad JF enjoyed it all.
Wow this is brilliant to have all this going on so locally!
Thanks for sharing Phoebe:)
Yes please I am interested in CIV show. Lovely blog, happy to find you.
Thanks Faye, I’m so glad you’re inspired, I think you and your daughter will love it. I saw you shared on FB so I’ll pop your name in the hat twice!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Phoebe. Your posts are always so inspiring and you’ve motiviated me to finally make the effort and go along … I was sad to have missed Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, but am determined to make the Nutcracker, and to take my daughter to her first live ballet. Even better if we won your tickets! I’d go to the CIV and would love to be entered into the draw.
Do I take it you’d like to be entered for tickets at CIV Kate?
Well the seats were very comfy and the music soothing….
Thanks for that info Louise. Shall I put you down for the CIV draw?
Do look up your local area Josie. Where are you?
Great Bene, I’ll put you down for CIV!
I’m sure you’re right, I bet she was happy to be back in her old stomping ground, interviewing ex colleagues Richard. Good to hear that your cinema takes part in these live events.
These screenings also happen at our local digital cinema in East Sussex and are, deservedly, very popular. It’s good to know how well received they are in Sophia-Antipolis. And this one must have made a pleasant change for Darcey Bussell from thinking of something fresh to say following each and every whirlabout by Strictly contestants.
Very interesting !
Yes, We are interested to go 😀
I think children will go to bed late this evening to enjoy this nice event…
[i]Le ballet de Noel le 16 Décembre â€â€œ soirée spéciale Ã Â destination des élèves des écoles primaires[/i]
Thanks Phoebe for this info!
That must have been a great performance to see, I’ve always admired Carlos Acosta. I will have to see if these screenings happen near me.
Thanks for this Phoebe, and as well as the ballet there are also live theatre productions streamed live from the National Theatre, in fact tonight is a showing of Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Gillian Anderson. Tickets will be on sale from 18:45 and the show starts at 19:30.
It was entertaining afterall, only slept for 10mn, will come back for sure,
I have so enjoyed the streaming at the civ and look forward to the next ballet at xmas, thank you Phoebe for the review as i couldnt go this time x
c’est noté (fois 2)
J’aimerais aller Ã Â CIV stp Phoebe! (partagé sur FB aussi)
Thank you Sally, have entered you twice 🙂
I would love to take my daughter to the CIV show so please enter me into your draw!
Have also shared your Facebook post.
That’s wonderful, thanks Lara, which cinema would you prefer, CIV Valbonne or Beaulieu?
Hi there, I have shared this on a friend’s timeline as her daughter who is 12 has just joined the Royal Ballet and will be performing in The Nutcracker. Please enter us for the prize draw.
Oooh I’d love to go. I’m interested in CIV please 🙂
I’d never heard of this sort of thing bu I think it sounds interesting. Do you know if it happens in Spain?