* Notes *
A new co-production with the Norwegian Opera of Carmen opened at the Royal Opera House opened last month and runs until February 3, 2007. All the performances are sold out, but 67 tickets are held to be sold the day of the performance as day seats. Last Thursday I tried this, getting to the entrance situated under the covered arcade in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza at 7:15 in the morning. The queue was already 20 people long, but getting tickets wasn't a problem, we got bench seats in the Stalls Circle. The ticket seller seemed surprised and said it wasn't always so crowded.
The production, directed by Francesca Zambello, was not perfectly congruous. The costumes were traditional, but the set was just a few large walls placed at different angles for each act. There were props such as an orange tree and a statue of the Virgin Mary that were in keeping with the costumes but not the set. Also featured were an abundance of live animals, including a donkey, a horse, and chickens. Another crowd-pleaser was Arthur Pita's choreography in the form of acrobatics and dancing.
None of the singing was particularly good. Anna Caterina Antonacci had her Royal Opera House debut with the title role, which she is sharing with Marina Domashenko. Antonacci is a strong actress, she was sultry and a bit mean, perfect for the role. Her voice is nice within a certain range, but has some unpleasant qualities outside of that. She gasped a few times and was occasionally flat. I appreciated that this production had the castanets played by a percussionist in the pit, but it would have been nice if they had Carmen at least mime the playing instead of having her alternately stamp the rhythm in her feet or bang together mugs in her hands. Jonas Kaufmann was strained as Don José, his voice is small and slightly nasal. He was quite underpowered compared to Marco Berti, with whom he is sharing this role. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo looked uncomfortable as Escamillo, quite stiff. His voice sounds constrained somewhere in his throat, it has a husk-like feel. He sang half of "Toreador en Garde" on horseback, which was silly but the audience enjoyed it. Norah Amsellem was an insipid Micaëla, she was shrill, out of tune, had too much vibrato, and was even off from the music a few times.
* Tattling *
People talked during the overture, but were fairly quiet the rest of the time. There was some cellophane being unwrapped during Act I, which was hushed quite vigorously, and not by me for once.
Antonacci flashed her undergarments several times during the course of the opera, impressive given that her skirts were all ankle length.
The performance was only 3 hours and 10 minutes long with one intermission, even though they did the longer spoken dialogue version of the opera. They cut "A deux cuartos" from the beginning of Act IV, so that may have contributed to the brevity of the performance.