Carmen

SF Opera's Carmen (Ginger Costa-Jackson)

_F2A5818 * Notes *
The second cast of San Francisco Opera's current Carmen (Adam Diegel as Don José and Ginger Costa-Jackson as Carmen in Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) production was performed a day after the first. The production is consistent, and it was impressive to me seeing it this time from Row J of the orchestra level, how much of the staging read clearly from the very back of the house as I saw it the first night.

Ginger Costa-Jackson is a sexy Carmen, her acting is on point. Her ability to emote was completely clear: she was sultry, defiant, and terrified as her role warranted. Her voice doesn't have the most volume, her high notes can be shrill but her low ones are pleasant.

Adam Diegel could always be heard as Don José, his reedy, plaintive sound cut through the orchestra. There were moments of slight strain, but again, Diegel's acting was convincing and carried him through to the end, which was very moving.

Erika Grimaldi (Micaëla) was stunningly vital and had a promising SF Opera debut with this performance. I also loved Michael Sumuel as Escamillo, his robust, beautiful sound and fine acting served him well.

* Tattling * 
It was fairly quiet, there was some light talking.

From the orchestra level I was able to recognize Jamielyn Duggan (Manuelita) as someone I took dance classes with many years ago.


SF Opera's Carmen (Irene Roberts)

_B5A0984* Notes *
Calixto Bieito's new production of Carmen (The chorus in Act IV pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) San Francisco Opera marked his US debut last night. Directed here by Joan Anton Rechi, the show was not nearly as shocking as some of Bieito's work. In fact, the staging was quite deft, and there was very little of anything that could be seen as gratuitous.

The spare set looks great from the balcony, and the space was filled skillfully, whether with people or props. The chorus didn't arbitrarily clump but got on and off stage what seemed to be a natural manner. The graceful spirals looked especially nice from above. The scene changes were particularly good, especially the heart-stopping one between Acts III and IV.

Irene Roberts (Carmen) has an interesting voice, her breaths are very noticeable and there is a strident quality to it. Yet she also has a resonance and heft that is a contrast to her tiny, doll-like frame. She looked so vulnerable next to the hulking Brian Jadge as Don José.

Jadge is very bright and strong. It's a good thing too, since he is scheduled for ten of the eleven performances right now, instead of the six he was supposed to sing when the 2015-16 season was announced. He was to share the role with Riccardo Massi, who withdrew and was replaced by Maxim Aksenov last November, who in turn also withdrew, leaving Jadge to replace him except for tonight, when Adam Diegel sings the role.

Ellie Dehn, also a replacement for previously announced Nadine Sierra as Micaëla, was likewise powerful. It isn't a role I like, but Dehn was appealing and never shrill. Zachary Nelson was perfectly fine as Escamillo, those low notes are just so hard, and he could always be heard.

The many current and former Adlers in the cast acquitted themselves well, they move nicely and it is important in a show that has so much raw physicality. They also all have such robust voices. Edward Nelson was especially good as Moralès, as were Renée Rapier (Mercédès) and Amina Edris (Frasquita). It was impressive to me that I knew who they were from the back of the house, and that their acting could read so clearly from so far away.

The weak link in the performance was the orchestra, which played at breakneck speed under Carlo Montanaro. There are many beautiful parts in the score for the woodwinds and the strings, but the musicians were going so fast it was hard to pick out even one particularly lovely solo. The rapid pace made for poor synchronization.

* Tattling * 
There was a fair amount of talking in the balcony, but since it wasn't totally packed, I was able to shift myself away from  in standing room.

A phone rang on the right side of the balcony during a quiet moment in the final act.


Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen at SF Opera

Sfopera-carmen-acti-anita-rachvelishvili* Notes *
Anita Rachvelishvili (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) is singing five performances as the leading lady in Carmen at San Francisco Opera this month. Rachvelishvili has an arresting voice, resonant and earthy. Her pronunciation of French may have been imperfect, but she seemed fully committed to her role. Rachvelishvili never looked like she was doing something simply because the director asked her to. Though not a graceful dancer, she moved with confidence.

The orchestra, conducted by Nicola Luisotti, was a bit more restrained on last Tuesday's performance than the opening matinée. The chorus sounded fine and together. Paulo Szot was still difficult to hear as Escamillo in Act II, perhaps because of his location upstage. Szot did sound rather pretty later in Act III. Susannah Biller's bell-like tone as Frasquita was pleasing. Thiago Arancam's Don José was a bit wooden, but his voice is not without appeal.

* Tattling * 
The audience was relatively quiet, no one around me talked, and I heard no watch alarms from my favorite standing room spot at the back of the balcony.


SF Opera's Carmen Media Round-Up

Sfopera-carmen-actiiProduction Web Site | SF Opera's Blog

Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Carmen (Act II pictured left with Kendall Gladen as Carmen and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, and supernumeraries; photograph by Cory Weaver) are trickling in.

Performance Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle (Kendall Gladen) | San Francisco Chronicle (Anita Rachvelishvili) | San Francisco Classical Voice | San Francisco Examiner


Kendall Gladen as Carmen at SF Opera

Carmen-acti-sf-opera-kendall-gladen* Notes *
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's beloved production of Carmen (Thiago Arancam as Don José and Kendall Gladen as Carmen in Act I pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) was revived at San Francisco Opera yesterday afternoon. Nicola Luisotti used his lush, hazy style to good effect on the orchestra. The volume was occasionally overwhelming, mostly in Acts II and III. The string soli were strong. The bassoon and harp also made fine contributions.

The children's chorus was quite adorable, but seemed to rush a little at first. The San Francisco Opera chorus was robust as usual. The principal singers all very much looked their roles. Wayne Tigges was a convincing enough Zuniga. Cybele Gouverneur did not dance confidently as Mercédès, but sang adequately. Frasquita did not seem like Susannah Biller's best role either, but she does have a lovely sweetness, and moved nicely.

Paulo Szot may have looked dashing as Escamillo, but he was all but inaudible in Act II, even from the back of the balcony, where the sound is best in the War Memorial. In contrast, Sara Gartland's Micaëla could always be heard. Gartland never sounded vulnerable or näive, perhaps because her voice is so hearty and piercing. Her facial expressions read clearly in her close-ups for OperaVision, and she seems prepared for high-definition film. Thiago Arancam also cut a fine figure as Don José, and his volume was impressive, especially in Act I. Overall, he was a bit bland, but the pain in his voice in the last scene came through. Kendall Gladen made for a languid, dangerous Carmen. Her dancing lacked fire, but her voice is attractive. There were some snags here and there in her singing, but for the most part she acquitted herself well. Her low notes are beautiful.

* Tattling * 
There were the requisite watch alarms and light talking from the audience. A woman left her child during the 5 minute pause between Acts III and IV, but did not make it back in time to take her seat. She whispered over me as the orchestra played the beginning of "À deux cuartos!" to inform the child of her location.


Casting Changes for SF Opera's Carmen

B--Kate-AldrichKendall Gladen and Anita Rachvelishvili will share the title role of Carmen with Kate Aldrich (pictured left), whose arrival is delayed by illness. Gladen sings November 6 and 9, Rachvelishvili sings from November 12 through 23, and Aldrich sings from November 26 through December 4.

The role of Mercédès, originally scheduled to be sung by Adler Fellow Maya Lahyani, will now be performed by mezzo-soprano Cybele Gouveneur.

Press Release | SF Opera's Official Site


Carmen at the Met

Carmen-metMetropolitan Opera's new production of Carmen was revived this season. Here is the Unbiased Opinionator's account of the performance that occurred on November 16th.

* Notes * 
The Metropolitan Opera's reprise of its 2009 production of Carmen, directed by Richard Eyre, updates the story from Prosper Mérimée's 1830s setting to the time of the Spanish Civil War. This concept is not new: Frank Corsaro imposed it on the low-budget New York City Opera production back in 1984, which was reprised several times. I saw the NYCO production in the late 90s, and an unfortunate parallel must be drawn: one has the impression that the updating is done only to save money by substituting drab costumes and sets for what should be a rich visual spectacle. Audiences "listen with their eyes" as well as their ears, as the saying goes, and in this case the visuals cast a pall on the entire opera, with some exceptions, to be noted below.

One exception to the dreariness of the color palette of this production was the striking blood-red slash streaking downward through the fire curtain as one entered the auditorium, which found an admirable symmetry in the gown in which Carmen meets her fate at the end of the opera: a black lace dress (trajes de faraleas) with an identical red streak down the front, something akin to a lightening bolt.

To this listener, the performance was murdered in its cradle by the impossibly fast tempi chosen by conductor, Edward Gardner, in his Met debut. The opening overture was driven to such an extreme that the only the marvelous Met orchestra could have kept up. The result was a depressing lack of rhythmic drive, absence of phrasing, loss of clarity of instrumentation and ragged ensemble. This was particularly obvious in the third act, and the failure of coordination verged on outright disaster. Perhaps Gardner was told by management to keep his eye on the clock, as overtime starts at midnight. Seated relatively closely to the stage, I could not discern a prompter's box, and absent a prompter, and even with TV monitors, the cast displayed almost telepathic capacity with which to maintain minimal coordination with the pit. I believe this to be one of the curses of our time, the confusion of speed with energy.

The admirable Met chorus seemed underpowered in this performance, except for lyric passages which were sung with great beauty and balance. The children's chorus was brilliantly energized and forceful. I often marvel at the capacity of a child's voice to carry in a house the size of the Met, an object lesson to adult singers and to voice teachers alike.

We had, once again, the ever present Met turntable set design; rotating vertical cuffs which serve in their various permutations as cigarette factory, tavern, gypsy hideout and bullring. Peter Mumford"s lighting design washed the stage in a dim haze throughout the evening. Piercing, brilliant Spanish sunlight was nowhere to be seen, even in the final act, except at the moment where Jose murders Carmen, when the sky momentarily turns blood red.

The Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanča possesses a voice of great beauty, graced with a secure technique and a powerful top. She is also blessed with an extremely attractive physical presence and the ability to move well on stage. However, one wished for more risk-taking, more earthiness. Her delivery undercut Carmen's predatory sexuality by substituting finely formed vocalism for dramatic power. It seemed that she either lacked, or was unwilling to dig into, the chest register where the music and drama require it. This is a great challenge for a good singer: how to go beyond certain technical boundaries without risking vocal health. I would love to hear this singer in other repertory, Mozart, Strauss or Mahler, where her cool Baltic temperament and vocal gift might be heard to better effect.

Tenor Brandon Jovanovich's Don José was vocally gratifying and visually handsome. He possesses a voice with the sufficient "blade" (as Colin Davis used to call it) with which to fill the large Met auditorium, and he finished his Flower Song with a beautiful voix-mixte B-flat. He overcame an initial impression of physical stiffness and unease and built his delivery to fine dramatic effect in the last act. On the minus side, he was not served well at the opera's conclusion by the costume designer, who draped him in what looked like a monk's robe with a huge cross dangling across his chest – a too literal take on his line to Carmen: "laisse moi te sauver." A fine bit of staging, having José slam Carmen into a wall, dazing her as he pleads with her not to desert him, was spoiled by an unsupported piece of the set which tottered comically upon impact.

Of the remaining cast, John Relyea's Escamillo was to this listener a disappointment in every respect except one, his dashing physical presence. I have greatly admired this singer in other roles, particularly, Faust in Berlioz's Damnation of Faust. Here, however, his ample bass-baritone was hampered by a swallowed delivery and weak top. Nicole Cabell as Micaëla, while sweet of voice, seemed underpowered in the Met's cavernous auditorium although she played the role with sincerity. At the risk of belaboring the point, one has to again fault the conductor, who put Cabell into a rhythmic vice in her signature aria "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante." His dictatorial, metronomic beat robbed this singer of any chance to employ expressive rubato or flow. She wisely delivered her high B front and center, figuratively wresting the baton from Edward Gardner's hands and giving herself a chance to make a true impact. Michael Todd Simpson as Moralès and Keith Miller as Zuniga were effective. Joyce El-Khoury (in her Met debut) as Frasquita, Eve Gigliotti as Mercédès and their gypsy cohorts didn' t stand a chance vocally, given Gardner' s whirlwind tempi, although they executed their choreographic and dramatic duties with expertise.

A special mention should be made of the beautiful and expressive dancing of Maria Kowroski and Martin Harvey, and of the beautiful rendition of the Act III Entr'acte by members of the Met orchestra.

* Tattling * 
The Met audience was better-behaved than usual, although one man behind me insisted on humming alone with the "Toreador Song" in the overture. Two women of a certain age insisted on exchanging remarks despite nasty looks from UO and from Miss LCU. There was the usual, inevitable standing ovation by the audience members who chose not to bolt for the doors the minute the show ended. How one longs for European audiences, who rarely give standing ovations, except for performances of extraordinary "once-in-a-lifetime" impact.


Carmen at LA Opera

Carmen-la-real   * Notes *
Los Angeles Opera is midway through a revival of Carmen from Teatro Real. Emilio Sagi's production is a bit avant garde, the set is traditional looking enough, and the costumes have a traditional feel with a few rough edges. The ending has been fiddled with, such that Carmen somehow takes a more active role in her own demise. This was interesting, but one is not altogether sure it works.

The dancers were required to make percussive sounds with their hands and feet, sometimes this was good, and other times they were entirely off. Likewise, the conducting was erratic, Emmanuel Villaume did not have command of the orchestra, they were often not together or with the singers.

Raymond Aceto did not look dashing as Escamillo until the last act, though vocally he was fine. Genia Kühmeier (Micaëla) was wonderful, she did start off a bit breathy, but her voice is sweet and clear. The strongest performance was from Marcus Haddock as Don José, his volume was good, and he sang with fire. His "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" went particularly well. Viktoria Vizin looked beautiful in the title role, her throaty, dark tones were not unpleasant, but she just did not seem fully engaged. Her hip movements were quite good, but her castanet playing left something to be desired.

* Tattling * 
The audience was talkative, as the Sunday matinée audience often is. They applauded for the set more than once.


Bayerische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo

Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.

New Productions for 2008-2009 | Official Site


Deutsche Oper Berlin's 2008-2009 Season

September 13 2008- July 2 2009: Turandot
September 14 2008- March 22 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
September 15-27 2008: Rigoletto
September 20 2008: L'Amico Fritz
September 21 2008- May 2 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 30- October 8 2008: Pique Dame
October 1-5 2008: The Nose
October 2-7 2008: Chowanschtschina
October 3 2008 - February 15 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
October 22-31 2008: Manon Lescaut
October 30- November 6 2008: Lohengrin
November 20 2008- May 8 2009: La Traviata
November 28 2008- April 12 2009: Aida
November 30 2008- May 31 2009: Tannhäuser
December 8 2008- February 12 2009: Daphne
December 13 2008- March 11 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
December 14-28 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- January 9 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
December 18 2008- January 4 2009: La Bohème
January 7- June 24 2009: Tosca
January 18- February 14 2009: Die Ägyptische Helena
January 25- February 10 2009: Salome
January 28- February 13 2009: Cassandra / Elektra
February 8-27 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 8- July 3 2009: Carmen
March 13- April 25 2009: Un Ballo in Maschera
March 26- April 4 2009:
Andrea Chenier
April 9-24 2009: Marie Victoire
April 30- May 9 2009: Eugene Onegin
May 20- June 2 2009: La Cenerentola
May 26- June 18 2009: Der Freischütz
May 27- June 6 2009: Madama Butterfly
June 10-21 2009: Tristan und Isolde
June 17-25 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 26- July 4 2009: Tiefland

Valery Gergiev conducts Pique Dame, The Nose, Chowanschtschina. Bo Skovhus sings the title role of Eugene Onegin. Roberto Alagna sings Fritz in L'Amico Fritz, with Angela Gheorghiu as Suzel. Gheorghiu returns in May for La Traviata, and in June for Tosca. Angelika Kirchschlager sings the title role of Carmen and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Nancy Gustafson sings the Feldmarschallin in the latter, but only in December. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the March performances of Lucia, opposite of Burcu Uyar and Elena Mosuc, who share the title role with Ruth Ann Swenson.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site


Den Norske Opera's 2008-2009 Season

Newoperahouseoslo

April 26- May 5 2008: Operafest
May 29- June 13 2008: Orfeo
June 16-24 2008: Det Store Bankranet
August 9-29 2008: Porgy and Bess
September 20- October 20 2008: Don Carlo
October 1-5 2008: Melancholia
October 17-23 2008: Dead Beat Escapement
October 18- November 20 2008: La Clemenza di Tito
November 6-8 2008: Jenny
November 22-24 2008: Thora på Rimol
December 19 2008- January 19 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 7-22 2009: Walküre
March 9-26 2009: Peter Grimes
April 18-June 20 2009: Carmen
May 20-28 2009: Pollicino
May 29- June 18 2009: Elektra

The Norwegian National Opera was to perform Gisle Kverndokk's Around the World in 80 Days as the first opera in the new house on April 26. Unfortunately, the stage control system for the new house was delivered late, and there was not enough time to train the appropriate parties. Instead they will be presenting a recital with works from various operas, which they have dubbed "Operafest." The opening gala is still set for April 12.

René Pape is singing Philip II in Don Carlo, and the Carmen production is the one from Covent Garden that is opening at Opera Australia tomorrow.

2008-2009 Season | New Opera House | Aftenposten Article