Music web hopes to attract younger demographic

PARIS – Reality TV has taken a distinctly highbrow turn in France, with the launch last week of “Orpheus: Behind the Scenes in the Underworld,” the world’s first talent format set in the cut-and-thrust world of … opera.

Instead of bringing together yet another gaggle of tone-deaf teenagers a la “Star Academy,” the show on the Lagardere-owned music web Mezzo pits 21 classically trained singers against one another.

The young hopefuls, who have graduated from conservatories all over Europe, have to impress conductor Christophe Coin, Italian opera director Antonio Latella and 16 teachers to win the best roles in Monteverdi’s 16th-century opera “Orpheus.”

The classical cabler will air a six-minute update on their progress several times a day, plus a 26-minute omnibus during weekends, and then will air the performance live from the Lyon Opera on April 17.

The show is produced by the Lyon-based production company CLC, directed by Stephane Lebard and filmed at Le Nouveau Studio, a classical singing school attached to the Lyon Opera.

“Reality TV has a negative image because of the way it has been used,” says Pascal Chevalier, Mezzo’s deputy managing director. “But this isn’t trash TV — we won’t be following the students into the bathroom. ‘Orpheus’ is a close look at the creative process in all its joys and disappointments.”

Mezzo is also hoping that “Orpheus’ ” cast of 25- to 30-year-old singers will attract a younger demographic to the web.

Even though Mezzo’s audience share is a mere 0.1%, it has friends in high places.

Trendy French designer Philippe Starck recently gave the web a visual makeover, while Peter Gabriel — Starck’s neighbor in London — composed the channel’s new signature music and jingles.

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