Carmen, Metropolitan Opera live relay, January 2010

Prosper Mérimée’s novella, on which this story is based, was partly inspired by his encounter with a condemned prisoner in Spain, about to be executed for murdering a gypsy. At the end of this opera, Roberto Alagna as Don Jose made me think that here is the man who killed the gypsy, which says something about the success of this new production by Richard Eyre. At the end of Act I, Alagna showed himself to be weak in giving in to Elina Garanča’s wonderfully strong Carmen, but at the end of Act IV he finds the inner strength to destroy her, sealing his own fate. Carmen herself is fatalistic, but has the ability to attract or reject men as she sees fit, and Ms. Garanča gave a glorious portrayal of this hedonistic gypsy. It was a strong cast, in which all the performers showed the driving determination of their characters: Barbara Frittoli was an intrepid Michaëla, singing beautifully, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes — replacing Mariusz Kwiecien at three hours notice — a stunningly handsome Escamillo who held the stage with his excellent presence. In his Act II appearance singing the toreador’s song, there was a loss of volume at a couple of points, though this may have been the microphone pick-up or the reproduction.

This Richard Eyre production was excellent — better I thought than the Covent Garden one, which I saw last October with Alagna and Garanča again in the main roles — and I very much liked the set and costume designs by Rob Howell, particularly the plain robes, with attractive slips underneath, for the cigarette girls. The dancing was excellent, Carmen keeping pace with the professional dancers in Act II, and giving a fine performance with her friends Frasquita and Mercedes in Act III. Choreography was by Christopher Wheeldon, who also inserted two pas-de-deux during the musical preludes for Acts I and III, well performed by Martin Harvey and Maria Kowroski. At the end of Act IV, after Don Jose kills his beloved, yet hated, Carmen, the stage spins round to show the bull-ring with Escamillo standing over a dead bull. This alludes to a strength and determination in Don Jose, which is rather different from the weaker character we find in other productions, giving an interesting take on the story.

The conducting by Yannick Nézet-Séguin was very well attuned to the singers, fully bringing out the excitement of the music. Altogether this was a wonderful Carmen, and I only wish I were in the audience rather than watching it on a cinema screen.

4 Responses to “Carmen, Metropolitan Opera live relay, January 2010”

  1. John says:

    I agree totally with Mark’s review, with the possible exception of the final scene. The tableau of the crowd and matador surrounding the dead bull added nothing for me, really. The opera ended with Carmen’s demise – period. Wonderful production. I, for one, was glad to see it at a theatre in Ithaca, NY rather than live. No way would I have seen the blood from the brotherhood initiation cuts from the Family Circle.

  2. markronan says:

    I’ve great sympathy with John’s comment, as I too feel the opera ends with Carmen’s murder. My gut reaction at the time was that seeing the dead bull detracted from the impact of her death, but in thinking about it afterwards I could see what was presumably the director’s point.

  3. Yellowlabfan says:

    I saw this at the Met on January 5 (also listened to the radio broadcast on Saturday the 16th). I agree completely about the bull scene – It was a stunning tableau, but they cut away from the real action, which was Don Jose and Carmen, for what I think was kind of an obvious & tawdry metaphor… Also I didn’t like the ballet at the beginning and also before the last scene – way too obvious, yet again!!

  4. ward says:

    Am in South African and today saw Carmen in the local theater. Stunning production and Garanca was an amazing Carmen. The big problem for me was that the camera never stopped moving and sometimes jumped around in a distracting way. With so much activity on the stage, why can’t we watch from one vantage point, similar to what we do at the opera. And, please, could somebody tell Renee Fleming that she is interviewing others and there is no need to keep talking about herself. She comes across as very egocentric. (Domingo never referred to himself in the previous opera interviews.)

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