Saturday, January 28, 2023

An Opera as a Graphic Novel?

Remember 2020? Course you do. Remember how all the shows and events were cancelled? Remember how long it took to get them started up again? So, in that in-between time, companies tried out different things. Online streaming. Behind the scenes videos. Arizona Opera put together The Copper Queen, which came out in theaters in 2021. But filming an opera as a movie instead of producing it as a live show is still a visual medium with performers and sight and sound and song. It was different--but not altogether. Their other experimental project that came out of that time was even more different.

I'm referring to the graphic novel of Carmen, which was adapted by Alek Schrader, P. Craig Russel, and Aneke. A graphic novel is long in the making. I believe it was announced in December 2021 and the Kickstarter campaign began the following spring. Kickstarter can be a bit of a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Even though there were updates in the following months, I was still caught pleasantly by surprise to find the actual, physical graphic novel in my hands this week. 

One hardly knew what to expect from such a project. But it's quite a nice volume the team put together. It's big and hardcover (and printed in Canada). I haven't read many graphic novels, so I'm not the best judge of this. But it was easy to read and follow along with. The dialogue and action flowed. While the visuals were kept to a simple style, they still conveyed strong emotions--in the same dramatic way that emotion comes across when I'm watching an opera on stage. I also have never watched Carmen. Rather than taking that as a negative, though, it meant that I was able to see just how much I enjoyed the story in its own right and felt each emotional beat as I flipped the pages--even without having any previous knowledge of or connection with the story.

I left off hoping that I do get to see the opera in person sometime. The book was emotionally stirring, with plenty of action and drama. I enjoyed following the story and picturing the music. The bold color palette matches the bold plot and characters. 

The idea of a project like this seems like it's to get more people into opera who wouldn't normally be. But I wonder if it doesn't work the opposite way, in getting people who enjoy opera more into graphic novels. Someone who has never read a graphic novel before is probably more likely to read this book (because of the opera) than it is likely for someone who has never seen an opera (but is into graphic novels) to read it. I could be wrong about that. (And this conversation is also going along with the assumption that there are two different groups of people--those who watch operas and those who read graphic novels. But since they're both sort of niche things, I wonder if there isn't more crossover between the audiences than one would think. People who like one niche type of content tend to like many niche things.) But either way, crossover and artistic experimentation can be fun--and they really did do such a great job with this volume that it will be a satisfying read for whoever it is that comes across it. 

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