Film Reviews


This was (one night only) a highly successful coming together of three of Buxton's finest - Buxton Festival, Buxton Film and Buxton Fringe: it linked opera as we don't normally see it with the South Africa heritage of Michael Williams, now CEO of the International Festival after 20 years in a range of senior positions with Cape Town Opera.

The film takes the opera out of the opera house and onto the bustling streets of a Cape Town township in present times: the setting adds an enormous vigour to the filming and the visual presentation is particularly colourful and lively. As Williams said in his introduction, while in the opera house there can be times when visual interest wanes, even during the most moving arias, in the film there is always something new and fascinating to look at - landscape set against wonderful close-ups of the singers' faces and stunning voices. In a way, it stopped being an "opera" and became a real adventure story for today along with all the musical qualities we could have hoped for.

Shot entirely on location, directed by Mark Dornford-May with Bizet's music complemented by traditional African music, and Pauline Malefane at the top of her game as Carmen, this film won the Golden Bear Award in 2005 at the Berlin International Film Festival and it's easy to see why.

This was an excellent and thoughtful addition to the range of operas presented at the Opera House this year. One showing only, unfortunately.

Michael Quine