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Opera's 'golden couple' reaches new audiences

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He adds, "Maybe this is the reason audiences likes to see us together. We have a real duet. Sometimes between a tenor and soprano, it's a fight. With us, two voices become one, and the ... emotions are true."

Though the couple is rumored to be temperamental and a bit capricious, Benoit Jacquot, the director of "Tosca," says that "diva" quality is partly what makes Alagna and Gheorghiu dynamic onscreen. "Their lifestyle lend[s] real meaning to the word 'star,' " he says. Through the expressive force of singing, they reach something rarely seen in the cinema, with a sort of naturalness."

Says Chris Hunt, producer of "Romeo & Juliet": "They ... threw themselves into every scene with boundless energy, kept going for very long hours, and were as easy to work with."

Though "Romeo & Juliet" and "Tosca" offer dramatically different approaches to putting opera on film, both are ambitious projects. "Romeo & Juliet," directed by Barbara Sweete, was shot at the 13th-century Royal Castle of Zvikov in the Czech Republic. The outdoor shots and highly stylized, slightly surreal staging create a palpable sense of another time and place.

Filming was done in increments, with many cuts and camera changes. Surprisingly, there were no close-ups: The singers had to emote with their whole bodies.

The 90-minute telecast streamlines the opera to center on its arias and its four famous love duets. While this production maintains the story's narrative arc, it loses dramatic tension and continuity. What it gains is a manageable length that may make it more appealing to TV audiences.

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