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Beth Clayton as Carmen [Photo courtesy of]
19 Nov 2010

Carmen, Arizona Opera

On Saturday November 13 and Sunday November 14, 2010, Arizona Opera presented Bernard Uzan’s rather different take on Bizet’s Carmen.

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Carmen: Beth Clayton (November 13, 19, 21), Jossie Perez (November 14, 20); Jose: Fernando de La Mora (November 13, 19, 21), Garett Sorenson (November 14, 20); Micaela: Janinah Burnett; Escamillo: Luis Ledesma; Zuniga: Peter Volpe; Frasquita: Rebecca Sjöwall; Mercedes: Stephanie Foley Davis; Remendado: Cameron Schutza; Don Cairo: Kevin Wetzel; Morales: Kevin Wetzel. Conductor: Joel Revzen. Director: Kay Walker Castaldo.

Above: Beth Clayton as Carmen [Photo courtesy of]


All of the action was moved into a bullring with choristers and even some audience members sitting above it in the arena seats. Uzan and Michael Baumgarten designed the scenery. Patricia A Hibbert created the period costumes and in Arizona, stage director Kay Walker Castaldo told the story in a more or less straightforward manner. Thanks to Baumgarten’s atmospheric lighting, one could imagine Lillas Pastia’s Tavern or a mountain pass on a dark night inside that bullring.

Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Joel Revzen led the Arizona Opera Orchestra in a brisk and powerful rendition of the score. The Carmen and Don José on Saturday evening were American mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton and Mexican tenor Fernando De La Mora. Clayton had considerable difficulty in the first act and her Habanera was sometimes out of tune but her seductive looks worked their magic on much of the audience. De La Mora has a robust voice and he used it to excellent effect. Both vocally and physically, he was a strong, virile lover.

Jossie-Perez.gifJossie Perez [Photo courtesy of Columbia Artists Management Inc.]

Sunday afternoon’s cast offered Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano Jossie Perez as Carmen and American tenor Garrett Sorenson as Don José. Perez is a sex kitten who sings with colorful chest tones so she makes a fine Carmen. Sorenson, a tenor with an exciting sound, was a dramatic José whose Flower Song garnered a number of bravos. He is definitely a singer to watch. Another new singer who may have a good career ahead of her is the radiant-voiced Janinah Burnett. Her Micaëla was a brave young woman who tried her best to save José and sang her aria with floods of iridescent tone.

Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma looked totally authentic as Escamillo, the bullfighter, and he sang with a strong polished sound. Peter Volpe was a stentorian Zuniga who commanded the stage. Studio members Cameron Schutza and Kevin Wetzel were eminently praiseworthy as El Remendado and El Dancaïro. Their feminine counterparts Rebecca Sjöwall and Stephanie Foley Davis suffused their phrases with emotion as Frasquita and Mercédès. Sjöwall has lovely high notes and they were most welcome in this opera where the title role is sung by a mezzo.

This production contained a good bit of Flamenco and ballet featuring Dance Captain Adam Cates and a group of nine powerful but graceful dancers. Peggy Hickey’s choreography evoked many images of France and Spain, even bringing to mind a painting or two. The performances of this Carmen next weekend in Phoenix should be a most worthwhile addition to the city’s fall season.

Maria Nockin

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