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Forget bringing back musicals...


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#1 of 20 Daniel J.S.

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Posted July 02 2003 - 01:50 PM

A thought that goes through my head whenever I'm listening to an opera recording is that some of these things should be made into movies (Filming of a live performance, like Bergmann did with Die Zauberflote doesn't count). No dumbing down, no cutting, the complete scores presented beginning to end in the original languages. No "movie stars" with the voices dubbed by real singers, but actual opera singers playing the parts (they would need acting lessons beforehand of course). Imagine how spectacular the Commendatore scene in Don Giovanni would look with modern A-list production values? Not to mention the Don falling into Hell. Since we already have The Lord of the Rings, dare I imagine what Der Ring des Niebelungen might look like (would anyone but me sit through a 4 1/2 hour Gotterdammerung though)? I like musicals like Singin' in the Rain as much as anybody, but instead of resurrecting musicals like that, couldn't Hollywood give this a try? True I'd probably have to see each release 1000 times at $50 000 a ticket for the studios to make back the investment, which is why it won't happen, but I can always dream. Anyway, who else believes that an idea like this could be spectacular?
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#2 of 20 Jeff Kleist

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Posted July 02 2003 - 03:55 PM

It certainly could. I respect Opera as an artform 100%, but I don't enjoy it personally. It could be stunning on screen though

#3 of 20 Seth Paxton

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Posted July 02 2003 - 03:59 PM

I think it would be great and could work great. It would only get an arthouse level of BO, but that could still be $30m.

There is a reason why music from stuff like Carmen remains so popular, because its good. I think a good story with good music will always work if its presented well enough. Of course Carmen already sort of had its shot at this, though not quite (Carmen Jones).

There is a Carmen movie with Placido Domingo, but I haven't seen it and can't tell if its a filmed stage play or a film version of the musical.

In any case Carmen is less "ambitious" with its set pieces than some of the stuff you are picturing.

#4 of 20 Daniel J.S.

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Posted July 02 2003 - 04:43 PM

I think a good story with good music will always work if its presented well enough.


You don't even need a particularly good story; if the music is great then you have a great opera (or for this discussion, a great movie). If you have the most brilliant libretto in the world, but banal music, you're fucked. Case in point, the Ring cycle: how many times does the "Rheingold" plot need to be summarized? Wagner wastes valuable story time with endless recaps, yet the work is one of the great achievments of Western culture. Or how about Cosi Fan Tutte? Just why are the two protaganists trying so hard to lose their own bet? I could go on, but the point has been made.

I think it would be great and could work great. It would only get an arthouse level of BO, but that could still be $30m.

I see two ways of getting the masses interested: first try something like The Marriage of Figaro (or Barber of Seville). It's light in tone, EVERYONE knows the overture and even though it's three hours long, it's so boisterous that the time will fly by. Although the plots and counterplots are intricate, the story is still easy to follow. Best of all, the work is rather intimate compared to the more grandiose works, so there would be less financial risk (although period sets and costumes and location shooting won't be cheap). If studios pushed the comedy instead of appealing to the high society crowd, it could break through.
The other way is to go all out and do something like Nabucco, where there are great crowd scenes and all sorts of spectacle. "Bigger is better" is definitley something the typical multiplex crowd believes and the great Verdi operas (as well as the Wagner operas, although you'd never get Tristan und Isolde into multiplexes. When was the last time muliplexes showed a 4 hour-plus movie?) are definitely big. So promoting the spectacle might draw people in.
Whichever choice the studios chose, the key would be to let the masses know that opera (and "serious" music in general) is not intimidating. Many people have this image of opera only being for snobs or homosexuals (seriously, when someone at an old job learned of my musical tastes, he jokingly said "maybe he's gay"), but it doesn't have to have such a limited appeal. Unfortunately, attempts to broaden appeal would be sneered at by said highbrows who would accuse the music of being "sold out." I'm convinced that people like us who love this music don't want the masses to get in because enjoying classical music makes us look erudite. Such snobbishness is what is diminishing classical music's foothold in the art scene; new compositions aren't getting any exposure because the audience is a bunch of snobs who only want to hear the classics. Something needs to be done to allow these musics to have more impact on modern culture.

EDIT
I just thought, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Sex sells and there are a couple of great opportunites for some hot and heavy scenes in this one. Posted Image
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#5 of 20 MatthewLouwrens

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Posted July 02 2003 - 05:49 PM

I would love to see more opera films. I remember seeing quite a good Otello on TV a few years ago starring Domingo with a blackened face. And I saw a Madama Butterfly at a film festival back in 1997. Enjoyed them both.

I think three-hour opera films are unlikely, but edited two hour films are quite possible. I mean, compare them with Shakespeare. Shakespeare is hardly commercial, and yet how many films do we get a year, and sometimes you get a real breakthrough hit. I don't know that it would be likely that an opera film really would have a hit like that, but you could at least make some small profit, enough to have justified making the film.
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#6 of 20 Matt<>Broon

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Posted July 02 2003 - 07:53 PM

Speaking as a big fan of Opera I think something like this would be great although I think part of the magic of Opera is the live performance itself.

Speaking realistically I just don't think it would have the audience to attract real investment. Almost everyone I know switches off when I mention opera or dismisses it out of hand.

Their loss frankly.
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#7 of 20 george kaplan

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Posted July 03 2003 - 12:14 AM

Carmen has certainly had real film versions made, including at least one that is a great version of the opera, http://us.imdb.com/Title?0087034. It could be redone, or Barber of Seville would make a good one. However, to work as a movie, I think a great director could eliminate some of the recitavo (which I usually find boring as all hell, sorry), and still tell the story.
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#8 of 20 Phil Florian

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Posted July 03 2003 - 04:12 AM

I personally liked the movie ABOUT opera. Topsy-Turvy was outstanding on so many levels. You get great backstory on two amazing artists whose light opera stylings still influence modern musical theatre (Gilbert and Sullivan, for those that don't know the movie) and at the same time, you get to see some, if not all (but quite a bit, really) of their shows, in particular Mikado if I recall. I am not sure how big the national audience is for a movie adaptation of opera, but of course that isn't to say it shouldn't be done. I haven't seen a lot of opera, but I have seen them in three cities main venues (NYC, Cincinnati and Cleveland and wait, er...Dayton? Can't remember now) and they always have struck me as very static styles of presentation. It was always about the singing, not necessarily about eye catching visuals. I know this isn't always the case, but even when I saw Domingo in...god only knows, but it sounded nice... they moved around until the singing started, then they stopped and sang to the audience. Opera seems to be so much more about breaking the 4th wall.

I know this isn't all opera, but strict fans of opera may be offended by a more 'radical' view of their style. Didn't whatsisname who did "Moulin Rouge" do a supposedly hip version of La Boehme ? Did it sell well? Did it bring new audiences in while keeping the old one? I wonder. I think he was thinking of putting it to film, too, but from the stills it looks a LOT like the same style as Moulin Rouge.

Just some thoughts. I love any music on screen. I think film and music go together like...er...film and music. It is just a good fit.


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#9 of 20 TheLongshot

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Posted July 03 2003 - 04:28 AM

Does "The Pirates Of Penzance" count? Posted Image That's about the closest thing to Opera that had hit the big screen, and it was a critical flop. (Tho I liked the movie, and it got me into Gilbert & Sullivan.)

The main problem I see with adapting Opera is that most of the great ones are not in english, and I think that will turn off the general audience. It is about like Mel Gibson doing a movie in Aramaic with no subtitles...

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#10 of 20 Lew Crippen

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Posted July 03 2003 - 04:28 AM

Zeffirelli has made several films, most notably La Traviata with Teresa Stratas, Domingo and MacNeil. This is probably my favoriate opera on film, taken as both a movie and an opera.

I’d love to see more done this way, but I don’t discount some stage productions that have been filmed. I’m especially fond of the version of Turndot done in the Forbidden City. And I love Bergman’s The Magic Flute, even though I dislike listening to it in Swedish.

I second Phil’s view of Topsy-Turvy.
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#11 of 20 RobertR

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Posted July 03 2003 - 05:09 AM

Quote:
strict fans of opera may be offended by a more 'radical' view of their style. Didn't whatsisname who did "Moulin Rouge" do a supposedly hip version of La Boehme ?


That reminds me of a production of Wagner's Ring operas that was on PBS many years ago. I was interested in watching it, until I found out that they decided to change the setting of the story from Norse mythology to a Victorian period piece. Bleh.

#12 of 20 Bob Banka

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Posted July 03 2003 - 05:18 AM

I like the idea, however for the sake or presenting via film, some of these pieces, particularly works by Wagner, would no doubt need to be trimmed a bit.

Material from Puccini in particular has more than enough drama to fill a film production and yet doesn't run THAT long.

It's also interesting to note that entertainment for the masses goes back to opera anyway - long before film. Historically, after opera presentations, we have the musical/operas - a.k.a. "operettas" and then the Broadway musicals, and then finally motion pictures.

That is, Hollywood films can trace their heritage back to the operas of previous ceturies. So, again - why not give it a go - at least at the art house level, it may work - perhaps even as well as a number of the Shakespeare texts that have made it to the screen. If Kenneth Branagh can make HENRY V and HAMLET accessible to a wider audience, certainly someone out there is bright and inventive enough to do the same for Puccini, Mozart, Wagner and Verdi. I'd stand in line for tickets.

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#13 of 20 John Watson

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Posted July 03 2003 - 11:20 AM

I'm forever seeing good arts programs on TV, whether opera, ballet, or concerts, that I would be willing to pay a decent price for as a DVD.

Then I could enjoy it without crummy cable signals, commercials, etc.

Are people just unwilling to pay for what may be a niche market entertainment?

#14 of 20 Steve_Ch

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Posted July 03 2003 - 01:34 PM

>>dare I imagine what Der Ring des Niebelungen might look like (would anyone but me sit through a 4 1/2 hour Gotterdammerung though)? <<

Thre's a GREAT PBS documentary called "Sing Faster", it comes on rerun from time to time, any fans of Der Ring.. just have to see, trust me on this onePosted Image .

#15 of 20 Greg_M

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Posted July 03 2003 - 03:04 PM

Baz Luhrmann filmed a version of "La Boheme" for PBS which I believe I saw, and it was very film like (He also staged the current Broadway version) It's possible he could maybe do it - but the audience for filmed opera is limited

Topsy-Turvy is quite a good film (About the composers but not really about opera)

"The Pirates of Penznace" was not a critical flop. The critics liked it, but the theater Owners refused to screen the film when Universal announced they would also show the film on opening night on Pay-Per-View. The theater owners boycotted the film in protest. The Film Studios never tried that again.

In 1987 a film called "Aria" Bombed at local theaters. It was an MTV style film consisting of a string of music videos filmed against famous opera Arias, each directed by a well known director (Nicolas Roeg, Robert Altman, Ken Russell etc)A few moments of the film are worth watching the rest is an unfortunate dull and incomprehensible mess.

One reason operatic films don't do well is that they are in a foreign lanuage (So they couldn't be expected to do better business than most foreign films)

The Best operatic segments come from 1984's "Amadeus" most people are familiar with that Oscar winning film.

The Only successful operaitc films are the rock operas "Tommy" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."
"Evita" which wasn't the big sucess the studio hoped it would be, nor was "Pink Floyd the Wall" But we'll see what Joel Schumaker does with "Phantom of the Opera" that may work.

#16 of 20 Daniel J.S.

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Posted July 03 2003 - 03:45 PM

"Evita" which wasn't the big sucess the studio hoped it would be, nor was "Pink Floyd the Wall" But we'll see what Joel Schumaker does with "Phantom of the Opera" that may work.


Well, I consider Andrew Lloyd Webber a pox on music in general, so I will definitley pass on that. I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would like his rubbish, but since I have easy access to music I do like, I try not to turn my nose up at his supporters.
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#17 of 20 Wayne Bundrick

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Posted July 06 2003 - 08:30 AM

Quote:
"The Pirates of Penznace" was not a critical flop. The critics liked it, but the theater Owners refused to screen the film when Universal announced they would also show the film on opening night on Pay-Per-View. The theater owners boycotted the film in protest. The Film Studios never tried that again.

Anyone remember "The Pirate Movie" with Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins?
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#18 of 20 Dennis Nicholls

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Posted July 06 2003 - 11:19 AM

Quote:
There is a Carmen movie with Placido Domingo, but I haven't seen it and can't tell if its a filmed stage play or a film version of the musical.


The Rosi film of Carmen, linked by George Kaplan above, is a wonderful Columbia-Tristar DVD by the way, and a wonderful introduction to opera for the "unwashed masses". :P) It's shot on-location in southern Spain and some scenes are a marvel of cinematography. Wait until you see Carmen emerge from a wading pool with a wet dress.... Highly recommended DVD!
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#19 of 20 David Susilo

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Posted July 06 2003 - 12:55 PM

please, no "Phantom of the Opera", the epitome of zero-subtlety. No Andrew Lloyd Weber, for that matter. Please, I beg you!

#20 of 20 Jason_Els

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Posted July 07 2003 - 09:03 AM

Quote:
(or Barber of Seville).

Yes! Better known to today's audience as...

Elmer Fudd Goes to the Barber

Quote:
dare I imagine what Der Ring des Niebelungen might look like (would anyone but me sit through a 4 1/2 hour Gotterdammerung though)?

Only if it's billed as:

The full-length version of, Kill the Wabbit!

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