Opéra imaginaire

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Opéra imaginaire
Opera imaginaire 1993.jpg
DVD cover showing a scene of the "Flower Duet" (from Lakmé) segment
Narrated by James Smillie
Release date
1993 (1993)
Running time
51 minutes
Country France
Language English

Opéra imaginaire (translates as "an opera for the imagination") is a 1993 French live-action animated musical anthology film, made for television. It has been compared to films like Fantasia[1] and Allegro Non Troppo, and consists of 12 different segments,[2] each one of which is based on a different popular opera, and done in a greater variety of animation styles than Fantasia had done.[citation needed] It was nominated for best production at the CableACE Awards in 1994.[citation needed]


  1. "Ladies and gentlemen. Or perhaps... Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome. Welcome to a gala for a very special occasion. Tonight, we are going to celebrate 400 years of opera with some of my very favourite pieces. I've invited a few of my best friends along, and one or two of my best enemies. You may know some of them already: Lakmé, Scarpia, Pagliacci. And who better to accompany us as we start our journey than the first great recording artist, Caruso? Oh, it's not as far as the Met, La Scala or Covent Garden; we are going to my 'Opéra imaginaire'. So, let's imagine."
    Vesti la Giubba (segment's aria: "Vesti la giubba", from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci, sung by Enrico Caruso (in 1902) in the aria's introduction and Franco Corelli (in 1960) throughout the rest of it): A stop motion animation based on the opera with a dark comedy theme and the characters rendered as circus-style clowns. A "happier" ending is shown with the 2D-animated ghost of Nedda reconciling with a rather obese Canio after he had "accidentally" killed her. Directed by Ken Lidster.
  2. "You may have heard of the jester Rigoletto. Well, his daughter is in love with the Duke of Mantua. This is not a very reputable neighbourhood. But then, the duke is not a very reputable person. He's about to see that women are fickle."
    La Donna é mobile (segment's aria: "La donna è mobile", from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto, sung by Nicolai Gedda): In the crimson heart of the wine in his glass, the (live-acted) Duke of Mantua embarks on a 2D fantasy in which he sees hand-drawn animated nude women based on those who come from famous paintings by French painters. Directed by Monique Renault.
  3. "Oh, there's a lady who doesn't let much slip through her fingers if she decides she wants it. But, who will she choose next, or will fate take her hand? Hey, Carmen, what do the cards hold for you today?"
    Carmen (segment's aria: "Avec la garde montante", from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, sung by Les Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois with the Opéra National de Paris, conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos in 1970): Carmen (live-acted) lays down her tarot cards which through CGI spring to life with the images the cards each depicting one of her choices from the opera: Don José, Escamillo, or Death. Directed by Pascal Roulin and Christophe Vallaux.
  4. "They say that love makes the world go round. Well, Count Almaviva's house is certainly spinning before Susanna's and Figaro's marraige. Oh, such a crazy day. Oh, I can remember feeling just like Cherubino, the page; young enough to be allowed liberties and, uh, old enough to take advantage of them. Oh, love..."
    Voi che sapete (segment's aria: "Voi che sapete", from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, sung by Suzanne Danco): A tribute to Cherubino's cross-dressing adventures, rendered through paper cut-out style animation against CGI backgrounds. Directed by Pascal Roulin.
  5. "Now, which one was it, I wonder? Aha! Ah, I should have guessed... Madame Butterfly, such a fragile creature. She's looking for something too. Looking and waiting for a ship, and her husband to return."
    Madame Butterfly (segment's aria: "Un bel dì vedremo", from Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, sung by Felicia Weathers): The story of Cio-Cio-San's tragedy is rendered through animation in the style of traditional Japanese watercolors. Directed by Jonathan Hills.
  6. "Hmm... Ah, what do we have here? A pearl from a necklace, no doubt. 'Cherchez la femme' as they say. Now where... Aha! Ah, you really can hear the sea. And a song from long ago, of two pearl fishers who swore they would always be friends, and..."
    Pearlfishers (segment's aria: "Au fond du temple saint", from Georges Bizet's opera Les pêcheurs de perles, sung by Nicolai Gedda and Ernest Blanc): A wispy, black-and-white, rotoscoped animation depicting a condensed version of the opera's plot to its famous aria. Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami.
  7. "Ah, here we are, the Magic Flute. And the search for truth and light. Will Pamina find Tamino, the man she loves, in the Temple of Ordeal? Ah, ah, ah! Patience, Pamina."
    Du also bist mein Braütigam? (segment's aria: "Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkünden ... Du also bist mein Bräutigam", from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, sung by Lucia Popp): A 2D CGI animated, geometrical version of the scene of Pamina's attempt at suicide and its prevention, with all the characters' bodies rendered in geometrical shapes on an ever shifting stage. Directed by Raimund Krumme.
  8. "What's that? Is it the Prince over there? Or perhaps, Dandino? It must be the day after the ball. But it's Cinderella's bracelet, not a slipper, we must look for. And everyone keeps on switching identities. Oh, what a tangle"
    Cinderella (segment's aria: "Questo è un nodo avviluppato", from Gioachino Rossini's opera La Cenerentola, sung by Giulietta Simionato, Ugo Benelli, Sesto Bruscantini, Dora Carra, Miti Truccato Pace, and Paolo Montarsolo with the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, conducted by Oliviero De Fabritiis in 1963): A sunny take on the opera and the Cinderella fairy tale through hand-drawn animation with the characters randomly turning into each other, as well as characters from other fairy tales, including "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", "Little Red Riding Hood", and "The Three Little Pigs". Directed by Stephen Palmer.
  9. "Ah, I do love a happy ending. Don't you? I think most people do. Oh, except this chap. He's always around offering... temptation, and taking your soul in return. Many, like Faust, live to regret the pact they made with Mephistopheles."
    Le Veau d'Or (segment's aria: "Le veau d'or", from Charles Gounod's opera Faust, sung by Nicolai Ghiaurov): A hand-drawn, sketchy rendition of the ill-fated romance between Faust and Marguerite as the booming voice of Mephistopheles, who manipulates them like puppets, sings throughout the sequence. Directed by Hilary Audus.
  10. "Still more celebrations. But, not even the tragedy of La Traviata will stop the Parisian high society amusing themselves."
    Noi Siamo Zingarelle (segment's aria: "Noi siamo zingarelle", from Giuseppe Verdi's opera La traviata, sung by the Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia of Rome, conducted by Francesco Molinari-Pradelli): An unrelated visual version of the opera with stop motion claymation sweets attempting to bring color to a world made of white cake. Directed by Guionne Leroy.
  11. "Whoa! Well, I know that opera can be a very moving experience, but this? Ah, Lakmé. I can smell that jasmine. It is heavy perfume for a young British officer. And the jungle's full of dangerous secrets, as well as beauty."
    Lakmé (segment's aria: "Flower Duet", from Léo Delibes's opera Lakmé, sung by Mady Mesplé and Danielle Millet with the Orchestre du Théâtre national de l'Opéra Comique, conducted by Alain Lombard): A rendition of the opera in which Lakmé's arms and hands, through CGI, turn into various flora and fauna of the Indian jungles, including a tree, a cobra, a deer, a bird, a leopard, a woman's arm with bracelets, a rock, a human, a boat, a clump of reeds, and others, as Gérald (live-acted) meets Lakmé (live-acted) in the temple. Directed by Pascal Roulin.
  12. "What the? Ah, of course. Baron Scarpia. Do you know the baron? Well, take it from me, you don't want to. And neither does Tosca, there. She's an opera singer, too. Now, I myself have sung with her on many occasions. The baron has condemned her lover to death. He's being held in the Castel Sant'Angelo."
    E Lucevan le stelle (segment's aria: "E lucevan le stelle", from Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca, sung by Carlo Bergonzi): An eerie hand-drawn animation depicting Cavaradossi's final hours of life observed by the angel of death. Directed by José Abel.
  13. "Well, the time has come to leave my friends and their stories. But, of course, the magic of music can bring us back here anytime. There are no limits. Just... listen... and imagine." The film closes with "Je crois entendre encore", also from Les pecheurs de perles.


  • Ana Lucia Alves as Carmen
  • Sébastien Chollet as Zurga
  • Franco Corelli as Canio
  • Alain de Greffe as Gerald
  • Mehdi Manglunki as Nadir
  • Bernard Marbaix as the Duke of Mantua
  • Fundji Ngelessy as Lakmé
  • Rubina Owadally as Leila
  • James Smillie as Narrator


  1. ^ "Opéra imaginaire". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Opéra Imaginaire" (in French). Planete-jeunesse.com. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 

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