Friday, 14 October 2011

Film In Opera

This week - and into next - the Royal Opera House is blogging about the use of opera in film. They're promoting the beginning of their big screen season and it also serves to draw attention to their successful relays where opera is shown live in cinemas. It's a particularly auspicious time to be doing this of course as the London Film Festival is now fully into its stride. What better time for a flagship West End events-house to be talking about its film connections than with international film press and the heightened sensibility of a potential public audience wandering the streets between Leicester Square and the South Bank?

It occurs to me though that the Royal Opera may have missed a trick. Opera gets co-opted into film production, but the opposite also happens - the use of film in opera productions. Here are some that you might be interested to know about.

1. Mike Figgis shot a number of specially produced clips shown inbetween scenes of his production of Lucrezia Borgia at English National Opera earlier this year.

UPDATE: I saw the BBC4 broadcast of English National Opera's The Damnation of Faust this evening. Directed by another film director, Terry Gilliam, the production uses a short film early on to show a stylised version of the second world war, and assert the credentials of the Mephistophelean character.

2. Alban Berg's Lulu (incomplete at his death in 1935) specifies a silent film to be shown during the interlude in the middle of the second Act. Doubtless the composer had in his mind Georg Pabst's celebrated 1928 silent film Pandora's Box as both share the same source material. The section of the opera covered by the film equates to the trial of Lulu in Pabst's film.

3. Nico Muhly's new opera Two Boys included specially constructed CCTV footage as part of the production design in a high-tech operatic thriller about the internet.

4. Wagner is one of the most popular composers whose music is appropriated by filmmakers: look no further than the prodigious use of the prelude to Tristan und Isolde in Lars von Trier's recent film Melancholia. The recent Tristan Project production of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in both America and Europe used short films by video installation artist Bill Viola to enhance the narrative of the opera when performed semi-staged.

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