A film produced by Stage Access and IMAX invites you to immerse yourself in the sounds and opulence of Paris

By: Sep. 20, 2022


"There's no place like Paris, so welcome to my world of opera". So says Renée Fleming, when introducing this film on the city which invented the word "connoisseur".

Renée Fleming's Cities That Sing: Paris is a new, immersive experience co-created and produced by Stage Access and IMAX. It brings the sights, sounds, and music of the city of lovers to the world's biggest cinema screens.

Performed at the Theatre Du Chatelet, Fleming enlists fellow singers Piotr Beczala, Alexandre Duhamel, and Axelle Fanyo to perform a variety of familiar pieces alongside the Orchestre Victor Hugo Franche-Comte (conducted by Jean-François Verdier).

The cinematography, by Julien Jaunet, and direction, by François-Rene Martin, is exquisite, placing the viewer directly within the orchestra - this is not just watching close-up but standing alongside and becoming part of the instrument itself, or getting an intimate close-up of the singer's gestures.

Fleming narrates with love and attention to the city she once called home, whether visiting a record shop and marvelling over old recordings of Carmen, or visiting le roi de haute couture, Alexis Mabille, to choose gowns to wear for her recital.

There are quieter musical moments, too, with pianist Tanguy de Williencourt supplying accompaniment for chamber pieces Reynaldo Hahn ("L'heure exquise"), Faure ("Pleurs d'or") and Delibes ("Les filles de Cadix").

James Inverne's script takes us through an affectionate and sometimes riotous celebration of Paris, its culture, and its sound. As the strains of the "Can-Can" from Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann come to life, we see the stars of the opera at laughter and play while being made up for the camera.

There are the evergreen arias known to even the most casual of opera fans. The "Barcarolle", also from Les contes d'Hoffmann. "Au fond du temple saint" (popularly known as The Pearl Fishers Duet) from Bizet's Les pecheurs de perles. And later, in the final sections where you metaphorically kick off your formal shoes, we hear a selection from Bizet's Carmen and Verdi's "Libiamo, ne lieti calici (Brindisi)" from La Traviata.

Elsewhere, composers Massenet (Manon, Werther), Gounod (Faust) are featured making this a concert showcase to savour. We also find out more about the great myths of opera (of which Faust is one) from opera director Robert Carsen, who opines that the city's architecture "belongs to whoever is looking at it".

The Paris locations both tie to the music and to Fleming personally. Made for the giant IMAX screen, the film is visually beautiful, with the camerawork given great depth. The scope is impressive, the sound enveloping.

Opera can often, when seen live, seem distant: not here. IMAX is often synonymous with action films or 3D, but this is something very different.

Although there is no captioning within the film, attendees to screenings will receive a digital programme with lyrics to the arias, making them completely accessible to both seasoned opera fans and those new to the genre.

First of a planned series of Cities That Sing, this film will mark the first ever combination of IMAX's massive screen with opera and classical music, screening in more than 250 locations worldwide.

The first screening of Renée Fleming's Cities That Sing: Paris will be on 18 September.

Photo credit: IMAX/Stage Access.