Opera in 3D and Suspending Disbelief

My daughter and I got ourselves all excited over seeing the opera Carmen in 3D. We carved out a day when we could get together, convinced her Daddy to go with us (even though he doesn’t much care for opera), and then Daddy and I drove into the city in Sunday afternoon traffic. It was going to be totally awesome.

Image via fullissue.com

First premiered in Paris in 1875, George Bizet’s story gives meaning to the adage, the things we do for love. Free-spirited gypsy Carmen seduces the naive soldier Don Jose, causing him to give up his hometown honey and his promising military career to follow Carmen into the band of smugglers she hangs with. When she moves on to a grander conquest in bullfighter Escamillo, Don Jose murders Carmen. The opera is tragic, yet the masterful writing of Bizet has many comic bits that keep the audience from being buried in melancholy. There’s a reason why it’s considered a masterpiece.

Building on the Metropolitan Opera’s roaring success and sell-out crowds seeing live simulcasts of its operas, this Carmen is the first in a series of operas to be filmed in 3-D, and it was a glorious production. Every song in Carmen is singable and Christine Rice in the title role was seductive and sassy. The problem was I just didn’t like her. I grew up with the film version of Carmen starring Julia Migenes-Johnson and Placido Domingo and I loved it. Although Rice’s version is probably more accurate to reality, Migenes’s Carmen is much softer and it’s more believable that Don Jose would give it all up for her.

Unfortunately, somehow Carmen isn’t aging well with me. It’s not unexpected that my 25 year-old daughter would think Don Jose’s devotion to Carmen was ridiculous. Even on my most obsessive days, I can’t imagine murdering anyone out of jealousy. There’s just not any man or woman worth the consequences. Saving the life of my family members in the face of danger? That I could murder for — maybe. But not for jealousy.

The good news is that Carmen in 3D is spectacular — I flinched when the crowd threw roses at the toreadors. The tavern scene is choreographed ingeniously, complete with acrobats! And if you don’t like what Carmen and Don Jose are saying to each other, you can ignore the English subtitles and just listen to the glorious music in its original French language. Although they aren’t the most fashionable choice, the 3D glasses are wearable and since everyone is in the same boat, it doesn’t make any difference if you look silly.

My internet sources tell me that the term suspending disbelief was originally coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 as a means to justify his use of the supernatural in the Lyrical Ballads. Since then, literary scholars and academics have taught us that the temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible is an important literary tool.  Suspension of disbelief allows an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

In the case of Carmen in 3D, I encourage you to suspend disbelief and decide for yourself if Carmen has passed the test of time. Even though I’m not a fan of the jealousy plotline, the production itself is worth the price of admission. And speaking of that, if you were to see this cast at the Royal Opera House in London, you would have to pay as much as  £158. In American dollars, that’s $261.00. If you love opera, you’ll love Carmen in 3D.


One response

  1. […] March, I wrote a post about the opera Carmen that I never published. I don’t know why; maybe I thought it was too personal and no one […]

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