I confess to all the angels and saints, that I’m a purist where opera and theatre are concerned. The entire experience must be real --- that means actors on the stage walking in front of you, an orchestra pit and no electronic amplification. After all, you’re watching a real drama unfold in front of you. Real people --- even if they’re acting the part. That way you can totally enter into their world. Once you transfer opera or theatre to celluloid, the images become two dimensional,images instead of people, and the film a dead object; no longer real. You’re reduced to a spectator whose visual experience is manipulated by the director. He decides whether you see a close-up of the principals, some minor characters or the ensemble. He directs your attention and your gaze. You no longer have the freedom to participate in the action as if it were really there.
However not everyone lives in London where theatre and opera are available daily. Not everyone can shell out £100 for a ticket. When Amber bought £8 tickets to an Aberdeen movie house, for us to see the Royal Opera's performance of Bizet's Carmen, filmed in 3-d I was skeptical. My skepticism vanished after the curtain rose on the Seville plaza. I found myself there, walking among the performers. Participating. Granted, the movie with its camera panning interfered with what I wanted to focus on, but nothing seemed to separate me from the action. At times the actors appeared to emerge from the stage and walk among us. When Carmen (Christine Rice) danced around and all over Don Jose (Bryan Hymel), I wasn’t surprised that the poor bloke’s head was turned. I was there. Add to that the superb voices, and we found ourselves wishing that the piece would never end. Christine Rice's presence dominated the stage. You could not avoid avoid her. Maija Kovalevska as Micaela had a particularly stunning voice. The French diction was so clear that I didn’t need subtitles, but they were there anyway, floating above the audience. As with real opera, we had a twenty minute intermission during which time the actual audience murmurs from the Royal Opera house were broadcasted through the speakers.
Unfortunately it wasn’t an experience we shared with many others. The audience were largely grey-heads like us, what my daughters call – Q-tips. Granted, we were at a weekday matinee when younger people were working. However I suspect that opera still has a stigma of an elitist recreation reserved for intellectuals. Not cool in other words. I’m hoping that 3-d opera will change those attitudes, make the fabulous world of theatrical music accessible to everyone. In May, the same theatre will be screening Wagner’s “Die Walkure” in 3-d. Amber and I will be there.
3-d opera may not be the same as sitting in a wooden seat in Bayreuth and watching Wagner’s Ring, but right now it’s the next best thing.