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Opera Goes Cinema - Film Talk for Opera Lovers
by Becky Tan

Five people discussed making a film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni which they called Juan: Michael Schønnemann, producer, Kasper Holten, director from Denmark, and three Swedish opera singers: Katija Dragojevic, Maria Bengtsson, and Ludwig Bengtson Lindström. When discussing the difference between putting opera on stage or on film, Holten stressed that casting is most important as each singer had to “look” the part. No fat lady could play a young girl. He began planning the film more than six years ago, and the cast was completed three years ago. As this presented a difficult, new role, he could only accept singers who were both enthusiastic and curious about the project. Although Holten directs opera at the Royal Copenhagen Opera House, this took different skills. For example, as Bengtson Lindström said, “Kasper kept telling me to do less, do less, you are acting too much.” I said, “Yes, but I’m not doing anything; I’m just standing here.” The whole opera was sung, with perhaps 20 spoken words added. The singers had mini speakers in their ears to keep time to the music. Often they had to work late into the night in chilly, empty old apartments all in Budapest. They agreed that Mozart is easier to film than perhaps Wagner or Verdi and singer don’t have the same control over the end-product as they would over an opera performance.