Opera Meets Film: The Brief Use of the ‘Lakmé’ Duet in ‘The Dressmaker’

“Opera Meets Film” is a feature dedicated to exploring the way that opera has been employed in cinema. We will select a section or a film in its entirety, highlighting the impact that utilizing the operatic form or sections from an opera can alter our perception of a film that we are viewing. This week’s installment takes a look Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “The Dressmaker.”

“The Dressmaker” isn’t a particularly good film. And it’s use of opera is a highlight of what makes it questionable in its quality.

Let’s set the scene. Set in a fictitious and close-minded town in rural Australia, the film aims to showcase the closeminded and superficial nature of its inhabitants. It certainly achieves this perspective by showcasing the superficiality of the characters, the film itself superficial in its execution. And the “opera” scene is right there with this stylistic choice.

Sergeant Farrat has been dressing up and imagining himself in female attire throughout his entire life. But he has had to keep this part of himself away from public view due to the conservative values of the town.

But halfway through the film he simply can’t contain himself any longer. At the home of Judy and Tilly Dunnage, the only two people he feels comfortable with, he takes fabrics and starts trying them on himself. He runs outdoors and “frees” himself, seeing his identity reflected in a dozen mirrors on a tree. This is his “coming out” in metaphorical and literal fashion.

To highlight the moment, we get the famous duet from “Lakmé” to add “pathos” and vibrancy to this opening up. The use of the two female voices seems to emphasize the power of Farrat’s feminine side coming to the forefront rather potently.

And that’s it. A brief scene with opera put in to showcase the “coming out” of a character. It works in the context, but the use is as superficial as the moment, building little thereafter and coming in rather awkwardly in a film that never uses the musical style again for its entire running time. Hence the brevity of this article.

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About the Author

David Salazar
Prior to creating OperaWire, DAVID SALAZAR, (Editor-in-Chief) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he interviewed major opera stars including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Vittorio Grigolo, Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazon among others. His 2014 interview with opera star Kristine Opolais was cited in a New York Times Review. He also had the opportunity of interviewing numerous Oscar nominees, Golden Globe winners and film industry giants such as Guillermo del Toro, Oscar Isaac and John Leguizamo among others. David holds a Masters in Media Management from Fordham University. During his time at Fordham, he studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Poland. He also holds a dual bachelor’s from Hofstra University in Film Production and Journalism.

1 Comment on "Opera Meets Film: The Brief Use of the ‘Lakmé’ Duet in ‘The Dressmaker’"

  1. This “not particularly good film” is one of the highest grossing Australian films of all time, voted by the Australian Academy as Australia’s Favourite Film of 2015 and one of the highest viewed feature films on Amazon Prime in the US. It is a fable and not meant to be taken literally, something that seems to have escaped the Opera Meets Film writer. While it is very playful and a tragi-comedy, thousands of women worldwide will disagree with your comment that it is superficial. Clearly you are not the audience.
    With apologies to Delibes, Sue

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