Liberating the libretto
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