Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Peabody Southwell as Carmen [Photo by Karli Cadel]
14 Mar 2017

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Peabody Southwell as Carmen

Photos by Karli Cadel

 

In 1983 Stage Director Peter Brook, in collaboration with writer Jean-Claude Carrière and composer Marius Constant, pared down the French grand opera to its bare essentials and presented La Tragédie de Carmen, a ninety-minute version of the story.

Rather then enumerate all the characters and musical numbers omitted, I will simply list the main characters and mention much of the music we heard at the Balboa Theatre on Friday evening. The characters were Carmen, Don José, Zuniga, Micaela, Escamillo, Garcia, and Lillas Pastia. If you are wondering who Garcia is, he is Carmen’s husband. He is mentioned in the Proper Merimée’s original book but not in the opera. Brook’s Carmen was no longer a glamorous gypsy and she had lost her factory job. However, she still managed to divert José’s attention from Micaela even though the latter sang with lustrous tones. The country girl put up a fight, however, and in this version of the story she had more spunk than in the grand opera.

KarliCadel-SDOpera-TragedyCarmen-3876.pngAdrian Kramer as Don Jose

With no chorus of soldiers in the background and no children imitating them, the focus was on the rivalry and its results. Carmen fascinated José with the "Habanera" but the orchestra had been pared down to a fifteen-member chamber ensemble. Thus, she did not need to have the big operatic voice we normally hear singing over a full orchestra. Peabody Southwell sang Carmen with a sultry sound and played up her intense sexuality. Her "Seguidilla' was delightful, her "Gypsy Song" enchanting, and there were no extra soldiers to harass her.

The memento she gave José, sung by tenor Adrian Kramer, was a red knitted stocking, not a flower. Nevertheless, he held it as he sang a beautifully lyrical "Flower Song." When the story moved to the inn, we met Max Cadillac as Lillas Pastia, an amusing female impersonator and hostess extraordinaire. At one point, Carmen was involved in a threesome with José and Lillas. Then we understood that the soldier’s thoughts had long since left his elderly mother and the village girl who expected to marry him.

Of course with a chamber orchestra and many fewer characters, there were no ensembles in the La Tragédie. Gone were the smugglers and their wonderful quintet. Instead we saw raw emotion, love and hate. Carmen had become theater. A fine actor as well as a singer, Adrian Kramer painted pictures with the colors in his voice. José, his possessive, psychotic character, was as essential to the story as Carmen herself. His tragedy grew out of his own actions, however. If only José had not left his village, he and Micaela might have had a chance at happiness, but after his trip to the big city, he, like many others, would never go back.

KarliCadel-SDOpera-TragedyCarmen-3908.pngAdrian Karmer (Don Jose) and Andriana Chuchman (Micaela)

Bass baritone Ryan Kuster gave a thoroughly pleasing performance of Escamillo with a full orchestra at Arizona Opera not too long ago. In San Diego his vocal range seemed to be a bit restricted, but it may be that some of the Toreador's notes are written lower in La Tragédie. He was a spectacular matador, however, and for a while it seemed as though Carmen belonged on his arm. Unfortunately, the bull killed him early on and his bloody corpse left the ring in an open cart.

Brook’s Carmen is a young girl eager to make money any way she can in the early scenes but she believes in fate and, for that reason, she understands that sooner or later she will meet her destiny. She is younger and much less of a glamor girl than Bizet’s Carmen, but she will intrigue patrons who are more interested in character and conflict than in the spectacle offered by grand opera.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Conductor, Christopher Rountree; Director, Alexander Gedeon; Scenic and Video Designer, Yuki Izumihara; Costume and Video Designer, Adam Alonso; Lighting Designer, John A. Garofolo; Fight Director, Brian Byrnes; Don José, Adrian Kramer; Carmen, Peabody Southwell; Micaela, Andriana Chuchman; Zuniga/Garcia, Anthony Nikolchev; Lilla Pastia, Max Cadillac; Escamillo, Ryan Kuster.

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):