Review: (Ottawa) Carmen
Duty, Love and Blood
by Jim Murchison
Carmen has been described as possibly the world's most popular opera. Given that so much of the music has seeped into popular culture having been featured in film scores, advertisements and on television ranging from the Muppets to Gilligan's Island, it is hard to dispute that parts of Carmen are definitely in our collective consciousness more so than almost any other opera. I have no doubt that if you sang the opening notes of the Toreador song there would be few that wouldn't be able to at least la la la their way through a major portion of it.
French director Bernard Uzan has directed Georges Bizet's tale of duty, love and jealousy with understated precision. I say understated because it is important that when large casts move about a stage that it be with care and dedication to the rich tableau of imagery, while trying to maintain a certain naturalism in the crowd reaction in all the supporting areas. Uzan succeeds in creating a grandness that flows naturally and with truth. This is of course perfected in collaboration with the choreography of Rosa Mercedes.
Italian Mezzo Alessandra Volpe plays Carmen with a sultry moodiness that flashes with desire, anger and ennui in equal proportion as passions fickle flame flickers and fades, being reborn in the breath of new love before its inevitable snuffing.
David Pomeroy, a Newfoundland tenor begins the evening as a soldier being held down by his duty and transforms himself to a passionate gypsy consumed by jealousy in the role of Don José. I believe he evoked the first bravo of the evening which was almost spoken as a statement of fact by a patron, a second prior to a rousing ovation.
Cory Crider from Marion Kentucky as Escamillo got to sing the Toreador song which I was frankly concerned could turn into karaoke. I could feel the audience humming it in their heads, but fortunately I got to hear Mr Crider's rendition supported by the on stage chorus instead and it definitely did not disappoint.
I think that the favourite of the audience on this evening though was Winnipeg soprano Lara Ciekiewicz as Micaëla whose heartfelt performance as the forgotten love was matched by a voice that cut so deeply into your heart that it hurt for pure joy and aching.
The rest of the principal cast and chorus are also very good and I want to mention the great contribution of the children's chorus that received the first show pausing applause of the evening in response to their soldier play.
Tyrone Patterson conducted the NAC orchestra which is always a privilege to hear. R. Keith Brumley provides the scenery design that creates the visual backdrop for the action. Harry Frehner lights the space supporting the mood and texture of the moment right up to the final scene where the walls drip with the blood of revenge.
The opera is so seldom in town that this is an absolute must for a fan, and for someone with less opera experience this would be a good choice to start or broaden your experience on.
runtime: approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes with two intermissions
Carmen runs September 9, 11 and 14 at Southam Hall at the NAC
I'm sorry to say this performance disappointed me a lot. As an opera fan, I care very much about the sense of drama conveyed by the words. Unfortunately, both Carmen and Don José had terrible French pronunciation, as well as poor acting skills. The dialogues were carried away hurriedly, with quite expected gestures and tone. Few moments were really special (Micaëla's aria in act 3 was one of them). Escamillo was an okay tenor. The choir did very well, but the orchestra pretty much just played what was written on their sheets, with occasional problems (ie horns in act 4). The flute gave us some touching lines in the slow intermezzo.ReplyDelete
At least, the audience seemed to be glad with it, so that's what counts...