Opera Meets Film: Opera Holland Park’s ‘Into the Light’ Is a Reminder of the Artform’s Spiritual PowerBy David Salazar
“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, in celebration of the holiday season, we want to take a special look at “Into the Light,” a film that truly explores the transformative power of opera.
This past year, Opera Holland Park presented a double bill that included “Il Segreto di Susanna” and Tchaikovsky’s renowned “Iolanta.” The latter is an opera about a young woman who has never seen the light or understood the experiences that she has missed as a result. As the opera progresses, the titular character comes to learn of her limitations and is ultimately healed by the power of love. As the opera closes, Iolanta is transformed and opens up to the possibilities of new experiences.
This opera dovetails beautifully with the main theme of “Into the Light,” a documentary the company created alongside that particular run of performances. The film introduces the viewers to Ian, Mac, and Tina, three veterans who have suffered PTSD.
As the story opens the three of them talk about their experiences and challenges that they have had to overcome after serving. Mac explains his darkest moments, noting that he started at the abyss and considered jumping into it. Tina talks about abusive relationships she endured, while Ian speaks to his sense of loss and lack of direction. All three of are given the opportunity to witness “Iolanta” in person with Mac and Ian also allowed an opportunity to experience a rehearsal.
The film’s main idea is to express how opera can prove transformative to everyone, especially, those who have never had an opportunity to understand its power. And as the audience is shown Ian and Mac in the rehearsal room with the chorus performing the final ensemble of “Iolanta” that true power can be felt across the screen. Closeups on their faces reveal true amazement and when the chorus performs the passage yet again, Ian walks throughout the room, admiring and interacting with the chorus members. At one point, one of the members of the ensemble takes him in his arms and allows Ian to place his hand on his chest to truly feel the voice’s production.
“You could feel the power coming from their bodies,” Ian remarks after the rehearsal.
The three then head to the dress rehearsal where they are completely spellbound by the experience.
“I would defy anyone not to be transported by that,” one of them comments. Mac notes that he could relate to the character of Iolanta and her “blindness” with regard to his own experience. Tina also notes that she found a part of herself in the opera, noting that she wanted to serve and entertain others, but needed to do that for herself first.
The epilogue of the film focuses specifically on Ian’s transformation, showing him at Opera Holland Park’s open day. He is shown conducting an orchestra and even singing in the chorus, noting his own pride in having known nothing about opera to being a part of it.
It’s a simple message to be sure, but it is also a reminder of the artform’s true power – to connect with people in truly unexpected and imaginative ways. Those insulated by the opera world tend to only consider their own criteria when relating the artform, forgetting that at its essence it is far deeper than a comparison of good voices, musical forms, or unique stage directions. Opera, at its core, is an artistic language that can speak to even those that we wouldn’t often consider a “part of the community.”
This film, while undeniably bolstering Opera Holland Park’s presence, does also showcase a way for other notable opera companies to develop their own relationships not only with their built-in audiences, but create other bonds.
Opera, in the context of this film, is portrayed as spiritual healing. It would do us all good to remember that this is the true magic of the art form.
Watch how that magic unfolds below.
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