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Movies as the church of the 20th century


The analogy between movies and opera
Michael Chapman Film-maker
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The closest analogy to movies is opera, I think, and that opera was the... the movies of the 19th Century, in that it used all the other arts. It used narrative and scenery and acting and music and dance and special effects, and all that, just as movies do now, now that... once they got sound. In fact, a very... it's rather interesting that the last universally acclaimed opera composer, Puccini, died in 1924, and by 1926 or [192]7 – I forget which – sound... they had worked out synchronized sound so that it... it's... I mean, it just cuts like that, and it goes from one; the mechanical necessity no longer existed for opera and opera has changed what it is utterly, since then. Now it's a sort of art form and you get all dressed up and you go to the Met, but in the 19th century it wasn't like that at all. I think I'm right about this: that Verdi's opera Rigoletto, was premiered not in La Scala in Milan, but for some reason in Naples, and I can't remember why... if I ever knew; I mean I'm not that old, I wasn't there. But supposedly the next morning, urchins in the streets of Naples were whistling La donna è mobile; it was... it was a hit, like a rock song was a hit, you know, and it was a hit for everybody, and I don't think that... and I've read Verdi's letters, and Verdi's sort of letters are not about art at all – they're about that goddamn soprano was complaining and she won't... doesn't like the thing, and the producer wants two more songs in the second act. He sounds like some poor, harried guy trying to do a... episodes of a sitcom, and he's one of the greatest geniuses of the 19th century, and... but if you read his letters, by and large, the letters that are about the business of opera, sound like some... they don't... they're not talking about art, they really aren't, you know, and that's what I mean by... that movies – the people making the movies – should concentrate on getting that... that aria right for the soprano and trying to keep the producer from yammering at you, and if you are good enough, and if your mind and your heart and everything are strong enough, something else will happen. It certainly worked for Verdi.

Michael Chapman (1935-2020), an American cinematographer, had a huge influence on contemporary film-making, working on an impressive array of classic films including 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', 'The Lost Boys' and 'The Fugitive'.

Listeners: Glen Ade Brown

British Director of Photography and Camera Operator Glen Ade Brown settled in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

He has been working on features, commercials and reality TV. He played an instrumental role in the award-winning ABC Family series "Switched" and is also a recipient of the Telly and the Cine Golden Eagle awards for Best Cinematography. He was recently signed by the Judy Marks Agency and is now listed in her commercial roster.

Tags: Rigoletto, Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi

Duration: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008