Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Opera Star to Film Star

The news from Cannes yesterday morning was that Michale Haneke's new film Amour has taken the 2012 Palme d'Or, the Oscar of the Croisette. Inamongst all the adulation for another reportedly fine film for the arthouse master director and his cinema-name stars one might note the second high profile film appearance of an accomplished performer on the international opera stage.

William Shimell is rather more buried in the ensemble in Amour than in his breakout appearance in Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy opposite Juliette Binoche (right). However it is clear that his profile of tall, lean good looks - imagine a slimmer, silver-foxier version of Sex In The City and The Good Wife actor Chris North - allied to a speaking voice that bears witness to his stage profession has captured the imagination of the more respected directors working in Europe today.

Shimell is still working as an opera singer, with his last major role in London around the time of the release of Certified Copy two years ago, as De Brétigny in Massanet's Manon (right, photo intermezzo.typed.com). The only comparable singer-to-screen-star transition is in the Sokurov film Aleksandra (2007), a big-hearted but bleak meditation on the Chechen conflict with the legendary Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya in the title role. Even the use of Sir Thomas Allen in Stephen Frears' wartime caper Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) was little more than a cameo in the character of a singer. This Washington Post article is an interesting overview of the phenomenon and has an interview with Shimell to coincide with Certified Copy's release.

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