Monday, 1 November 2010

First Night - an Opera Movie

There's a report today on a new movie that doubles as a vehicle for Cosi fan Tutte. At least I think I've got that right. It looks like this.

Now, first of all, having read the words Branagh and Mozart by the end of the second paragraph, I immediately thought of the fun, well-intentioned but flat 2007 film of The Magic Flute that Branagh directed. Yet producer Stephen Evans says that the film is "specifically not a movie of an opera. It's a movie set against a backdrop of putting on an opera".

Evans is a successful figure in the industry and he seems to think that the climate is right too:
The decision to make First Night was also prompted by opera's rising popularity. [Evans] was struck by the huge number of young people at a recent open-air screening at Somerset House of The Rake's Progress from Glyndebourne. "I was amazed by the youth there. It's Stravinsky. Not the most melodic of people," he said.
Indeed there's also a reference to the increasing interest in live relays of opera productions in cinemas, not to mention the popularity of large scale, one-off 'event screenings' of Royal Opera Productions.

The fact remains though that an opera is already a self-contained artwork. Making a film of it requires a meta-approach - just like the high concept inventively applied by Branagh to The Magic Flute, or indeed in this idea (which itself is rather like Michael Winterbottom's film of Tristram Shandy, for example). This is half the reason why Evans found that
People who didn't know opera were more excited than the people who did. The music is so wonderful, so lyrical. People uninterested in opera found themselves loving the music.
The music is undeniably wonderful, irrespective of the context of opera (and this is probably true of any good opera, not just those by Mozart). Lifted out of the socially-claustrophobic implications of this is an opera! it's easy to experience the music's charm.

I suspect that Evans is ingenuous about wanting people to experience Mozart - though his first priority, as a producer, will be to make a profitable film. Consequently, there is the ever present but entirely irrelevant 'don't worry, you're watching a populist approximation of opera' meme built into (not only) the film (but also the all-important trailer) with Julian Ovenden singing O Sole Mio.

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