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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 11
Carmen stuns in 3D
Arts & Entertainment
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Carmen stuns in 3D

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Do we really need opera in 3D? The very idea seemed pretty silly to me. My technical requirements are good picture and, above all, excellent sound. Beyond those, only musical and dramatic excellence matter.

Then, along comes Carmen in 3D from no less than The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. With a pedigree like that, I had to check it out.

Before I write about the performance itself, let's deal with the 3D question. First of all, the quality of the 3D could not have been better. Having seen Avatar in 3D (both on standard and IMAX screens), I can say that this operatic 3D was state-of-the-art. While the film director here avoided gimmicky used of the medium, there were nonetheless a few moments when a sword or singer's gesture did reach out to the space a couple rows ahead of our seats - enough to be fun, but not so much as to become annoying or distracting. So, I give the 3D, as projected at the Thornton Place cinema, an A+.

But, the same caveats apply here as to any well-done 3D movie. Some people experience eye fatigue, headaches, and even motion sickness when watching a 3D movie. I assume an opera might be somewhat less likely to cause such side-effects, given the lack of high-speed chases, gigantic explosions, and the teenage attention span camera action of today's action movies.

I had absolutely no discomfort from the 3D medium or the required glasses. And, yes, the 3D did add to my enjoyment of the opera. Aside from the slightly darker picture (a side-effect of this technology), it gave us a simply more natural-looking experience. In fact, because these digital projections were taken off a disc, rather than being sent live via a satellite, the picture was also much sharper than the Met Live in HD presentations in regular 2D.

Perhaps the most surprising fact was the ticket price: $13 on the Fandango website! That's far below the $22 price for the Met Live in HD showings. The Carmen, of course, is not live, and is showing no less than six times.

As for the performance, I have seen only one other Carmen that I liked better in my 50 years of attending opera. This Carmen, sung by Christine Rice, was vocally gorgeous and visually stunning. The whole production was super-sensual, and she was no exception. One cannot tell from a video just how big the voices were, but she used her considerable dynamic range with exceptional intelligence.

Bryan Hymel as Don Jose wowed me with a voice that reminded me of Joseph Calleja and Jussi Bjoerling. Utterly beautiful. Handsome and smart in his acting, he appeared natural throughout. The Escamillo of Aris Argiris was adequate and marginally convincing.

The production, under the direction of Francesca Zambello, is the same as on the superb DVD that I reviewed in these pages a few months ago. That DVD, with Jonas Kaufmann as Don Jose, is indeed my favorite Carmen of all.

There will be more 3D operas to come from The Royal Opera and from English National Opera as well, although the ENO's Lucretia Borgia will be 'the world's first live 3D opera' in the U.K. and as such may not be intended for U.S. time zones. Although the Met is going to use 3D projections in the opera house in next season's Siegfried, I have not heard of any plans to change its Live in HD series to 3D in the cinemas.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this Carmen in 3D. There is nary a boring moment in the whole 170 minutes (includes a 20-minute intermission). Whether the 3D is a plus or minus is a highly personal matter. Remaining screenings at Thornton Place are March 12 and 20 at 3pm, March 15 at 7pm, and March 21 and 26 at 1 p.m. Check www.carmen3d.com for other venues.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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