DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

BIZET: The opera Carmen, 3D Blu-ray (2011)

The first opera to be shot in 3D and hopefully not the last.

Published on July 31, 2012

BIZET: The opera Carmen, 3D Blu-ray (2011)

Performers: Christine Rice (Carmen), Bryan Hymel (Don Jose), Ris Argiris (Escamillo), Children’s Choir & Girls Choir, Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus/ Constantinos Carydis
Director: Francesca Zambello
3D Director: Julian Napier
Studio: RealD/Opus Arte OA 3D 70960 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: French DD 5.1 (English only on extras, no subtitles)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese
Extras: (not in 3D) “Carmen and Filming in 3D,” “ Adding Depth to Opera,” “Carmen the Opera”
Length: 175 minutes
Rating: ****

RealD decided since this was to be the first filming of a real opera in 3D, why not do the world’s most popular opera? So they did. They first had a series of special showings in theaters thruout the world in 2011, then released this 3D Blu-ray. It’s unfortunate they didn’t release a 2D version at the same time or make this one of those 3D packages which also contain a standard 2D DVD and Blu-ray, so a wider audience could appreciate it. Perhaps their thinking was that this production had too much competition in the 2D DVD & Blu-ray area. It was shot during several live stagings in London. (The first of the extras on the disc details some of the efforts they had to go thru in filming it.)

Carmen is probably the most-filmed opera in history. Cecil B. De Mille even did a silent version in 1915. The Met and La Scala opera TV broadcasts in the theaters have been a big success because they offer the ultimate wealthy insider’s view at a fraction of the cost and trouble—great closeups of the performers, no need for opera glasses, clear super titles, fine intermission features, wonderful surround sound, etc.  Now with 3D the last step in bringing the viewer onto the opera stage has been achieved. You get a view you could only dream of. It works amazingly well, making me want to see other operas in 3D ASAP. Maybe the Met series will try that…

There is a depth of field behind all the singers, and it’s real—not something dreamt up by the stage designer. You get a feeling of intimacy with the characters on the stage, drawing you more into the opera. You get a taste of the realism to come in the opening backstage shots and of the audience in the opera theater. You really feel as though you are there. (No complaints about the 3D glasses causing a too-dark image; I change my set for 3D from the usual “Custom” setup to the brighter “Vivid” setup, only with the high brightness turned down slightly.)

The four leads are all excellent in both vocal form and acting. Christine Rice’s Carmen is suitably sexy and outrageous, and Greek baritone Argiris makes a suitably swaggering Escamillo. A problem with all operas is that the most musical voices are not always couched in the most pleasing and attractive bodies. This production found good and attractive primary singers, and the crowd scenes are to be commended for not being all attractive bodies. This is not a Zeffirelli-filmed production; it’s still an operatic stage with simple sets, and there are musical and acting-wise competitors, but the 3D does make you feel part of the production—gives you a unique sense of scale.

—John Sunier




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