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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000542.txt from 2004/10

From: "Lelia Loban" <>
Subj: [kl] Opera productions that should be damned
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 15:29:25 -0400

Patricia Smith wrote,
>[W]hy ruin something that is fine the way it is by
>trying to turn it into affected quasi-pop trash?

Exactly -- but some wildly revisionist, modernist productions do work, such
as the 1983 Spanish (Emiliano Piedra) flamenco film of "Carmen," directed
by Carlos Saura. I think it's outstanding. This version has a modern,
flamenco staging of the original "Carmen" as the setting for a parallel
modern story of jealousy and murder among the dancers. Antonio Gades, the
choreographer, co-authored the screenplay (based loosely on Prosper Merimee
play) with Saura. Gades also stars as a character named Antonio, who plays
the role of Don Jose in the play-within-a-play. Laura del Sol plays an
actress named Carmen who performs the play-within-a-play role of Carmen.
Antonio pulls her out of school for this starring role, then falls in love
with his Pygmalion creation. When Carmen proves to have a mind of her own,
Antonio's obsession with her leads to tragedy. They're joined by a Who's
Who of superb flamenco singers and dancers.

Reality and fantasy weave around each other in surrealistic and
melodramatic fashion, until it's difficult for the audience to know what is
overheated imagination and what really happens. In another sense, this
movie strikes me as an extended metaphor for the whole idea of flamenco.
Since the original Carmen was supposed to be a gypsy, while flamenco has
its roots in gypsy music and dance, the fusion isn't as farfetched as it
might seem on the surface. The superior cast and crew make the idea work.
I don't know of any other movie quite like this one.

Teresa Nieto and Paco De Lucia wrote the original gitano music, but the
Georges Bizet opera, directed by Thomas Schippers, can also be heard on the
soundtrack. (The Schippers recording, issued as Decca-London 256-8, has
Regina Resnik as Carmen and Mario del Monaco as Don José; Joan Sutherland
as Micaela and Tom Krause as Escamilio are not heard in the film.) Filmed
in widescreen, Saura's "Carmen" used to be available as an Orion home video
and as a Columbia Tristar home video in pan-and-scan, and as a Columbia
laserdisc in pan-and-scan, all in the original Spanish with English
subtitles. The videos all have been out of print for several years now,
while no true widescreen version of this "Carmen" has ever been released on
home video -- a great shame. This movie is near the top of my DVD

But then there's MTV's "Carmen, a Hip Hopera" (2001). That one *is*
available on DVD, but maybe the less said about it, the better....

(Anyone else overdosing on baseball playoffs...?)
Lelia Loban
For a stronger America: Kerry and Edwards in 2004!

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