Get your hankies ready. Robert Dornhelm's exquisite film of La Bohème, starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, is to be shown on BBC2 on Xmas day at 4.10pm.
Though shot in a studio, with the soundtrack's Marcello and Schaunard substituted by more camera-friendly faces, the movie has a truthfulness rarely found in stage productions. This is mostly down to the central performances - how wise (in retrospect) Dornhelm was to create this testament to the partnership at the height of their powers.
But it also helps that he has spared no expense to communicate poverty. The clothes are shabby, the apartment is a dump, possessions are few. The richness of the characters' inner lives is highlighted by contrast. We understand that their dreams are all they have to live for. And more depressingly we learn that love and art are as nothing if you don't have money. The camera is always pointed in the same direction as the music, and perfectly responsive to it. Dornhelm apparently has no operatic training but it's hard to believe. Possibly the greatest opera movie since Syberberg's Parsifal.
Bertrand de Billy conducts the great Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Vienna State Opera bigmouth Intendant Ioan Holender makes a cameo appearance as Alcindoro.
Here's a preview:
and here's an interview with Anna: