Commonwealth Lyric Theater made a concise, successful show of Carmen Sunday in Newton’s War Memorial Auditorium, with truncated dialogue between solos and ensembles, and the original French lent varying degrees of idiomatic accuracy and flavor. Alexander Prokhorov-Tolstoy directed masterfully in the small space, and conductor Ismael Sandoval economically led the seven-piece ensemble to deliver spritely sounds, supplemented by expert pianist Alexander Pokidchenko. The bright costumes of designer Natalya Stolyarova in the style of the epoch had great appeal.
In the title role, mezzo Anna Cley portrayed the strong-willed gypsy with sensual and determined self-confidence; her acting showed absolute conviction with highly musical delivery of text, only slightly flawed by being marginally under pitch on the highest notes.
To the part of Don José, Neapolitan tenor Giovanni Formisano brought a burnished resonance so brilliant it often induced the audience to near-frenzy. Convincing and credible, he made the Don’s desperation overwhelming, and only occasional Italianate-sounding French syllables faintly marred such glorious singing. Formisano should be on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera.
Soprano Olga Lisovskaya brought beautifully limpid sounds to Micaela’s music, her voice soaring to the climaxes of her third-act aria. It was an interpretation sympathetic and heartwarming, her interaction with Don José caressing. Baritone Franco Pomponi sang Escamillo with virile tone richly and proudly delivered, blending with Don José in their exciting duet. Soprano Jean Furman and mezzo Natalja Sticco played Carmen’s friends, Frasquita and Mercedes, imbuing their parts with secure tone and vivid characterization and, in the famous “Card Trio” with Carmen, lovely mixes of harmony.
Patrick Starke’s Ramendado, Afanasy Prokhorov’s Dancaïro, Clark Rubinshtein’s Lilas Pastia, and actor Daniel Bravarkin’s Zuniga, all got dispatched with aplomb and authority. The elegant and assured flamenco dancing of Sabrina Aviles totally represented the style.
The capacity audience responded with shouts and applause.