Wednesday, 30 March 2011

CARMEN IN 3D / Review

CARMEN IN 3D / Cathay Cineplex / ****

This review was published in The Straits Times on 30 March 2011 with the title "D is for Diva".

There was a time when cynics predicted the demise of “live” performances with the advent of radio, television and recorded media. While home theatre systems have seriously affected cinema box office sales today, it is unlikely that concerts or opera viewed on the big screen will make a dent on the experience of concert-going. Not even in glorious three-dimensional images. The reason is simple: people appreciate the effort artists and performers put on in real-time, and no recording however good will replace that. Having said that, opera produced by one of the giants of musical theatre – London’s Covent Garden - may be enjoyed whatever the medium of delivery. The extra frills provided by 3D are mere icing on the cake.

Carmen In 3D was recorded from a “live” event at the Royal Opera House and viewed by a real audience. The spontaneity of performance was thus never in doubt, and the extra edge of having no recourse for retakes was also a factor. Having the artists up close at sniffing distance, as opposed to a view high up from the balcony, lent further nuances overall.

Georges Bizet’s memorable music is a winner, as is the sympathetic plot of a gypsy girl’s fatal penchant for freedom and independence. Christine Rice’s (left) convincing Carmen traversed a wide array of emotions and moods while luxuriating in a seductive persona and dusky voice. Her rise from lowlife to respectability (as partner of Aris Argiris’ toreador Escamillo) was sharply contrasted with the descent of Bryan Hymel’s brightly lit Don Jose to desperate down-and-out. Their intertwined destinies as predicted by the cards spelt the opera’s dramatic success.

What of the 3D effects engineered by Real D? 3D works best when it enhances an already brilliant production, such as this one. The direction by Julian Napier and Francesca Zambello was rich in detail, all of which stand out in this medium. The narrative also unfolded in a naturally flowing way. The crowd scenes in all four acts and choreography for Act Two’s Danse Bohemienne were also rendered more visually appealing. A lesser production will not be saved by any gimmickry. Besides highlighting buxom chests and deepening cleavages (and there were many views of those), the dubious thrills will soon recede into the background of consciousness.

If you missed the Singapore Lyric Opera’s January production of the same opera, this is definitely worth catching. Better still, go for both. But do not expect Alban Berg’s Wozzeck to be given the 3D treatment anytime soon.

Carmen in 3D opens in Cathay Cineplex on 1 April 2011.

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