marriage is failing (Stephanie Novacek) sings a long aria describing the awful day she’s having. In Bernstein’s staged original, she delivers the aria to a hatshop assistant. In Cairns’s film, she sings as the whole day unfolds: she’s in a cinema, we see a snippet of the dreadful Hollywood film she’s watching (Trouble in Tahiti)-, she drives home, she mopes on the couch, gets up and pours a drink, gets tipsy, and so on. ‘I’ve never liked singers just standing and emoting,’ says Cairns, an experienced opera director. ‘Occasionally it can work on stage, at a high spot in the drama – but it’s almost impossible on TV.’ Television may have only two dimensions compared with the theatre’s three, but Cairns’s visual filling-in lets us see the character ‘in the round’, as a human being.
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