Movie review by EDF
Starring: Christine Rice, Bryan Hymel, Aris Argiris, Maija Kovaevska
Director: Julian Napier
Every now and then, something new and exciting arrives in movie format. What we have here is the opera CARMEN performed live on stage at The Royal Opera House and shot in glorious 3D. Before you stop reading this because opera is of no interest to you, ask yourself this question, have you ever seen an opera before? Well, I have never seen one before and have always changed channels whenever any opera was shown on the television. So what makes this in any way different? One: for the price of a cinema ticket, you get to see one of the all time great operas. Two: it is a story of love and betrayal performed a lot more convincingly than most love stories portrayed in movies. Three: you get the best seat in the house and with it being shot in 3D, you feel as if the actors are right in front of you as with any other stage play.
Carmen (Christine Rice) is a gypsy woman who lives life without any rules. Men love to be with her but she will not love just any man. Carmen loves the man who does not want to be with her and that man should beware. The poor unfortunate man in this case is Don Jose (Bryan Hymel), a corporal. He meets with Micaela (Maija Kovalevska), a girl from his village, who gives Don Jose a letter from his mother. The letter expresses her wishes that Don Jose should return home to settle down and marry Micaela. Don Jose gives Micaela a message for his mother declaring he will marry Micaela. Suddenly, a fight breaks out at the cigarette factory where Carmen is fighting another woman. Carmen is arrested and Zuniga (Nicolas Courjal) orders Don Jose to guard her while he gets a warrant to put Carmen in prison. Carmen seduces Don Jose who helps her escape. For this Don Jose is thrown into prison.
Some time has passed when we find Carmen and her gypsy friends in a tavern dancing and drinking. The champion bullfighter Escamillo (Aris Argiris) arrives and flirts with Carmen, who rejects him so he leaves. The smugglers Dancaire (Adrian Clarke) and Remendado (Harry Nicoll) arrive to ask Carmen to join them but she refuses because she is in love. They hear Don Jose’s voice to which Dancaire tells Carmen that she must convince Don Jose to join them. Carmen dances for Don Jose but upon hearing a bugle summoning the soldiers back to the barracks, Carmen tells him that he must join her if he loves her. Zuniga appears, making an advance on Carmen leading to a sword fight between Zuniga and Don Jose. The smugglers reappear only for Zuniga to be captured. Don Jose now knows that his fate is to escape with Carmen.
Now at the smugglers camp, Carmen has grown weary of Don Jose, mocking him at every opportunity. During a card reading, Carmen foretells of her own death. The smugglers head off on a mission, leaving Don Jose by himself at the camp. Escamillo appears looking for Carmen, but only finds Don Jose and they fight. Carmen returns just in time to break it up. Escamillo invites everyone to his next bull fight and leaves. Meanwhile, Micaela has followed Don Jose up to the mountains to bring him news that his mother is dying. Promising that he will return for Carmen, Don Jose leaves. Will Carmen end up with Don Jose or Escamillo and will her predictions become true?
What is remarkable about this is of how engaging and fascinating this opera is to someone who has never watched an opera before. Unlike most other operas, this one includes spoken dialogue. To help the novice along, even though it is performed in French, there are subtitles throughout, making this easy to follow. It is no different to watching a stage play. This is not just a bunch of singers bellowing out an opera score, these are proper actors who act out their roles. What is refreshing is that we get a glimpse at the start of the actors vocally preparing or getting into their costumes. As for the performers, Rice plays Carmen convincingly as the seductress she truly is. Hymel plays Don Jose as a sympathetic, hapless fool who falls for Carmen. To experience such a production in this 3D filmed format makes opera less elitist and highly enjoyable.