Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

15 Aug 2014

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Carmen at Santa Fe Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Ana Maria Martinez as Carmen and Roberto de Biasio as Don Josè

 

Georges Bizet composed his opera, Carmen, to verses by Ludovic Halévy and dialogue by Henri Meilhac. Based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella of the same name, the work was first performed at the Opéra-Comique on March 3, 1875. The Comique audience was accustomed to seeing performances that did not reflect any of the serious issues of the day and the low class characters seen in Carmen surprised many people. Local reviews were not positive, but the opera soon gained popularity from performances outside France. When it returned to Paris eight years later, it was already well on its way to becoming a major success.

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group. Because of the updating and change of setting, Jorge Jara’s costumes were smartly styled in bright colors except for the first act where Carmen and her colleagues wore factory smocks that they left open in front because of the summer heat.

Benoit Dugardyn’s Act II Tavern had a disco ball and microphones for Carmen’s nightclub act, the Chanson Bohème. His striking third act set put all but the most athletic smugglers behind the high fence that marked the border, so it was not until the last act that the audience got to again see the leading characters’ facial expressions. When we did see his face, Jose had become a dangerous, broken man who stalked his former lover.

Conductor Rory Macdonald began the performance with crisp, sprightly tempi that immediately set him apart as a force to be reckoned with. He caught the essence of Bizet’s work while allowing the singers enough room to interpret their individual parts as he drew fine playing from the orchestra. An enchanting seductress, Ana Maria Martinez was a Carmen to remember whose interpolated high notes added considerable interest to her vocal interpretation.

Tenor Roberto De Biasio was a passionate Don José who sang his role with ease except for the notably difficult final pianissimo of the Flower Song. As his original lover Micaëla, Joyce El-Khoury’s smooth legato and silvery high notes told of her plight in dangerous times. Kostas Smoriginas was a charismatic bullfighter who took over Carmen’s nightclub audience with his virile, resonant bronzed tones.

Amanda Opuszynski’s Frasquita had bell-like high notes, but low notes of Sarah Larsen, the Mercédès, were hard to hear. The strong voices of Dan Kempson as Le Dancaïre, and Noah Baetge as Le Remendado completed the group of smugglers. Surprisingly, for the beginning of the quintet, Director Lawless placed Carmen upstage, away from the others and there were a few unsynchronized notes.

SantaFe_Nockin2.pngTOP ROW: SARAH LARSEN (MERCÉDÈS) + DAN KEMPSON (LE DANCAÏRE) + AMANDA OPUSZYNSKI (FRASQUITA) BOTTOM ROW: ROBERTO DE BIASIO (DON JOSÉ) + ANA MARÍA MARTÍNEZ (CARMEN) + NOAH BAETGE (LE REMENDADO)

This production incorporated an unusual conception of this fascinating opera that worked well and gave the audience a new look at a most familiar piece. Musically, Martinez was an outstanding soprano Carmen who moved the gypsy into modern times.

Maria Nockin


Casts and production information:

Carmen, Ana Maria Martinez; Don José, Roberto De Biasio; Escamillo, Kostas Smoriginas; Micaëla, Joyce El-Khoury; Frasquita, Amanda Opuszynski; Le Dancaïre, Dan Kempson; Le Remendado, Noah Baetge; Morales, Ricardo Rivera; Zuniga Evan Hughes; A Vendor, Rebecca Witty; Conductor, Rory Macdonald; Director, Stephen Lawless; Scenic Design, Benoit Dugardyn; Costume Design, Jorge Jara; Lighting design, Pat Collins; Projection Design, Jon Driscoll; choreographer, Nicola Bowie; Chorus Master, Susanne Sheston.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):