In my fabulous former life, I was able to attend many opera performances at my all-time-favourite London landmark, the Royal Opera House. However, I’m now a million miles away from Covent Garden, so I can only get my dose of world-class opera via World Opera and Ballet.
Initially, I was uncertain as to how much I would enjoy opera on the big screen. Now, I have to admit that watching the performance in high definition and with surround sound is really not a bad compromise to the real thing. The camera can capture every flicker of emotion in the singers’ faces, which I would never be able to see from my ampitheatre seats. Bizet’s sumptious melodies, comprising many of opera’s greatest hits, obviously helped the experience.
The ROH’s 2007 production of Carmen was superb – vibrant, earthy and perfectly cast. Dark-haired Anna Caterina Antonacci was utterly believable as the sultry and volatile Carmen who uses her sensual charms to entrap the hapless Don Jose. As well as singing beautifully, Antonacci was a fantastic actress who never hammed up her emotions and was able to convey her disdain for Don Jose with a mere sideways glance. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, astride on his (live) horse, was proud and authorative as the toreador Escamillo. My favourite tenor, handsome Jonas Kaufmann, sang poor bewitched Don Jose, tortured with unrequited love and reduced to rags and pleading with Carmen not to leave him. Their last scene, full of tense drama and passionate physicality, had me holding my breath.
The only problem with not being at the ROH was that I wasn’t able to yell Bravo! as the curtain went down.