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The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden has launched a new initiative - its first ever free podcasts available for download from its website.

The first offerings are the current production of The Nutcracker, performed by The Royal Ballet, and the new production of Bizet's Carmen by The Royal Opera. A spokeswoman said: "These podcasts are the first of what we hope will be a regular feature on our website and an integral part of ROH Education's work in bringing opera and ballet to new audiences. They are useful background for audiences coming to see a performance, and interesting for people who would like to know more about opera and ballet but may be unable to come to London to the Royal Opera House in person."

"In The Nutcracker podcast, Deborah Bull tells of the sparkling adventures of Clara and Hans Peter on Christmas Eve. As well as telling the story, Deborah points out the different sounds from the orchestra in Tchaikovsky's much-loved score and even lets us in on the secret he kept before the first performance!"

Rory Bremner tells the story of the wild and sexy Carmen, illustrated by excerpts from the opera. He also explains why Bizet never knew that his opera was a success and why it changed the course of French opera.

* info.royaloperahouse.org

* seasonindex.cfm?ccs=984cs=2754 info.royaloperahouse.org

* EducationIndex.cfm?ccs=1110cs=2938

* To access the podcasts, go to the ROH website and click on the podcast icon on the home page

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