Lib­er­at­ing the li­bretto

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

WE KNOW THAT, for all its tech­no­log­i­cal might, the pub­lic stayed away from Sanc­tum (for­merly James Cameron’s Sanc­tum) in their droves. We know that most folks are now wise to shoddy chil­dren’s prod­uct like Al­pha and Omega. But we need to talk about 3D.

Dwin­dling box-of­fice re­turns on en­hanced re­leases ought to have ne­ces­si­tated a de­bate about what sells and what doesn’t. The thrill is gone. We need to make po­larised glasses work again. Could opera be the an­swer?

The avail­abil­ity of reg­u­lar simul­casts and live streams has al­ready trans­formed and democra­tised this most daunt­ing of arts. In re­cent months, high­fal­lutin’ sorts plumped for Nixon in China while big-haired girls queued up to catch Bon Jovi Live in the Mul­ti­plex. Cleaner, com­fier and in­fin­itely cheaper than the real thing, filmed opera, like any live mu­sic, is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment at the fleapit.

Car­men in 3D, a pi­o­neer­ing co-pro­duc­tion by RealD and the Royal Opera House, prom­ises “an im­mer­sive en­ter­tain­ment ex­pe­ri­ence that will trans­port au­di­ences to the il­lus­tri­ous Royal Opera House” to see Francesca Zam­bello’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ge­orges Bizet’s 1875 opera. Boast­ing a van­tage point that would nor­mally set you back the price of a yacht, the suit­ably grand pro­duc­tion fea­tures two soar­ing lead per­for­mances from Christine Rice as the un­for­tu­nate hero­ine and Bryan Hymel as Don Joseì.

Sub­tle by op­er­atic stan­dards, nei­ther star looks as though they learned about acting from watch­ing Give Me Head Peace. Their avoid­ance of the house style that has blighted many filmed op­eras is just as well in the cir­cum­stances – 3D is an un­for­giv­ing medium.

Di­rec­tor’s Ju­lian Napier’s grace­ful cam­er­a­work un­der­stand­ably re­frains from lin­ger­ing on ton­sils and pores. He works dou­bly hard to main­tain a sense of move­ment. It’s not quite enough to con­vince us that we’re watch­ing a tremen­dous filmed stage per­for­mance when we might be watch­ing a tremen­dous movie ver­sion such as 2005’s U-Car­men eKhayelit­sha.

The 3D, in­evitably enough, turns out to be tech­ni­cally im­pres­sive though not strictly nec­es­sary. We do need to talk about 3D.

Up close and per­sonal: Brian Hymel and Christine Rice

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