Soap Opera and Opera: Stage Vs Screen

By Hazel Last edited 133 months ago
Soap Opera and Opera: Stage Vs Screen

We like to think we have a broad range of cultural interests at Londonist. In a day, we can bring you news of a new electro-pop retro psychedelia band playing Camden, a Korean theatre company performing a German play to tango music, an art exhibition that involves bringing your own art and dance performances full of writhing nude, geriatric bodies. So it gave us no end of pleasure to hear of two news items from either end of the tricky scale of representation and suspension of disbelief.

It seems that Eastenders is moving from Elstree studios to Pinewood because the current sets are too shabby to stand up to the scrutiny of high definition television (HDTV). The move from Hertfordshire to high-tech Pinewood (home of the James Bond films) in Buckinghamshire is necessary because with sharp focus HDTV, it is clear the sets have had a beating. HDTV viewers will see buildings made of fake bricks, and covered in flaking paint and hastily assembled chip board - and we hear rumours viewers will be able to analyse the grain of the more wooden actors in extra sharp detail.

While we would never suggest Eastenders as a good example of televisual realism (would anyone in real life find Phil "85 per cent mashed potato" Mitchell in any way threatening?), it was still nice to be protected from the true extent of the soap opera's grubbiness through the blurring haze of normal TV. At Pinewood, new sets will be built from real brick and concrete instead of chip board and optimistic splashes of paint. We hear that Ian Beale might get a new coat of varnish too.

At the other end of the scale, it gave us no end of delight to hear that the show went on at the English National Opera (ENO) on Saturday, despite the male lead losing his voice in the first 40 minutes. None of this quibbling about peeling wallpaper and threadbare carpets in this extraordinary case of art triumphing over real life: when Clive Bayley started to struggle in his role as the pastor Raimondo in that night's performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, a quick solution was found. It just so happened that fellow ENO singer Paul Whelan was in the audience, no doubt checking out the role before he plays it next month, and he was called up to perform a little earlier than intended.

With no time to change into the 19th century costume as the performance stormed onwards, Whelan sang the role from the wings while Bayley mimed on stage. It was an electric night according to the audience, who could clearly cope with this sort of kerfuffle and still have a good time; there's been no news of people asking for refunds. HDTV may be a triumph of technology but it will never beat the triumphs of the stage.

Last Updated 19 February 2008