Opera is perhaps the art form most at home with camp, best able to tread the fine, fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime. Here we have an excellent example of that balancing act: the "Bell Song" from Lakmé (a number that I prefer to think of by its alternative, far more camp title, "Ou va la jeune Hindoue?"), starring that one-woman Camp Explosion Diva, Dame Joan Sutherland.
A festival of orientalist kitsch, brownface aplenty, extreme coloratura, and a style of acting that can most kindly be referred to as gestural, it manages to be laughably silly (impersonating the dainty teenage daughter of an Indian priest, the statuesque Dame Joan looks like nothing so much as a drag queen dressed as the Duchess of Windsor en route to an ashram) and simultaneously quite marvelous (the woman can sing). It's the sort of thing that in this day of headline operas and disposable "stars" is mostly just a memory, kept alive in the fever dreams of Opera Queens.
It's fine to be solemn and serious, to promote against all odds spiky new works in "transgressive" new settings - but sometimes, all you really want is a big lady in a bigger dress, being adored by a crowd of supernumeraries, singing loud. Dame Joan, as always, comes through. There's a treasurable moment round about 6:25, in which she assumes an attitude of almost superhuman self regard, as if the thought just struck her: Damn, I'm good. She is.