in: Reviews

November 7, 2009

Efficient production of Carmen at the Shubert

by

The attraction of Bizet’s Carmen to generations is the almost non-stop singable melodies, bellowed in enjoyable recollection by even the most amateur chanteurs. The production put on by Boston Lyric Opera at the Shubert Theatre last night (and continuing through Nov. 17) is a good show.

A welcome element of BLO’s Carmen was that is follows the composer’s intended use of dialogue. Another good aspect of this production was the choice and unity of setting and costumes (with the exception of the wall of decayed Byzantine murals, a good idea in Act I but discordant, if not incongruous, when it became the roof of the Gypsy’s den).

BLO’s decision to turn the opening scene of Act IV from  a crowd scene with ballet into the background as Carmen readies Escamillo for his bullfight, an obvious concession to the cost of mounting such a scene, was an imaginative solution, with a very effective gossamer screen of red.

The orchestra, under the baton of Keith Lockhart did an admirable job. The chamber orchestra interlude during Act  III (the beginning of “Part II”) especially Ann Bobo, flute, and Steven Jackson, clarinet, was particularly beautifully played. Especially delightful to this attendee was the cello solo in the recollection of the toreador song, so ably played by Alexei Gonzales. Rafael Popper-Keizer could also be observed, bobbing his head in rhythm with the music, through the crack in a curtain meant to screen the orchestra pit from the audience.

Carmen (Dana Beth Miller) well matched the guttural, tough character she is, though could she have been more alluring? Don José’s (John Bellemer) singing occasionally seemed strained, which arguably is not out of character. Micaela’s (Hanan Alattar) voice was also well cast — lovely, as was the first-act duet between her and Don José, although she sometimes had difficulty with projection. Daniel Mobbs looked, acted, and sang a jaunty, self-confident Escamillo,  the character that adds so much dramatic tension to this opera.

They all seemed to loosen up,  to better effect, in “Part II.”

Ably acted and sung were the supporting roles: Dancaïro (Andrew Garland), a very convincing Gypsy leader; Frasquita (Meredith Hansen) and Mercédès (Stephanie Chigas), as Gypsy women. It is a shame that their Card Trio, with Carmen, was cut. Is four hours really too long for a humdinger of an opera?

Bettina A. Norton, the pinch-hit reviewer for this opera, is a retired museum professional. She has published widely in her field, American historical prints, and in later years, was editor and publisher of The Beacon Hill Chronicle.

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