Carmen by Georges Bizet is often someone’s first opera. The songs are popular, and the story is exciting, full of passion and intrigue. I first saw Carmen back in the days when the Metropolitan Opera toured and the stars were the legendary Risa Stevens and the world-famous tenor Richard Tucker. I was hooked and have been enjoying opera ever since. What a great pleasure it was to see and hear Carmen again in this revival production, originally created by Emilio Sagi for the Teatro Real in Madrid and first shown in Los Angeles in 1992.
This revival featured fantastic sets by Gerardo Trotti with costumes by Jesus del Pozo and choreography (flamenco) by Nuria Castejon. Javier Ulacia recreated the original direction but, as is often the case with remounts, it wasn’t tailored to the new singers and cast, so sometimes the chorus looked like they were lost. It didn’t help that the outstanding but small-voiced Carmen (Viktoria Vizin) had to sing her first aria upstage.
Tenor Marcus Haddock, who has a reputation for singing the role of Don Jose, seemed determined to do what he was accustomed to doing, and hence lacked depth, though his singing was outstanding. The conductor was Villaume Villar, who led the spirited orchestra and made the music soar.
What I really loved about the Carmen of Ms. Vizin was her interpretation and acting ability. This Carmen is not the firebrand usually associated with the role; rather she is cool and calculating, something of a feminist, determined to lead her life in a world dominated by men. She is even quite vulnerable, and Ms. Vizin fills all her moments.
The other men were Raymond Asceto as Escamillo, Wayne Tigges as Zuniga, Daniel Montenegro as El Dancairo, and Morgan Smith as Morales. Carmen’s two sidekicks were Kerri Marcinko and Kendall Gladden. The singing was of a very high standard, especially in the case of Raymond Asceto, who sung a rousing "Toreador Song." Genia Kuhmeir scored as Micaela.
Carmen plays on November 22nd and 30th and December 3rd and 7th, and then, with a new cast (Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Carmen, German Villar as Don Jose, and Sabina Cvilak), on December 6th, 9th, and 14th, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center.