* Notes *
Yet another revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production of Carmen opened yesterday. This particular production seems to be a staple at San Francisco Opera, it comes around again every few years, the last time was in 2002, and the time before that was in 1997.
This production is fairly traditional and, in truth, slightly nondescript and inoffensive. The costumes are pretty, lots of full skirts and fringed shawls. Marco Berti sang very well as Don José, his voice was plaintive and had a great deal of volume but not too much vibrato. At times I found him almost too loud, something rare for a tenor. Berti isn't terribly dashing, certainly Ricardo Herrera as a rival (Zuniga) did not help things. The latter is tall and fairly handsome, it's a bit odd that Carmen goes for this short and plump Don José instead. Hadar Halévy had a respectable debut, her voice is nice enough, though she wobbled or gasped slightly a few times. Her castanet playing in Act II did leave something to be desired, it was unclear and tentative. Her dancing was not good, as she lacks the flamenco body type and her steps looked awkward. The rest of the cast sang and acted well, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen was fine as Escamillo, and soprano Ana Maria Martinez was also quite good as Micaëla.
* Tattling *
Marcia Green seemed nervous at the beginning of her talk before the performance, but the topic was engaging. Instead of giving us a bit of history about Bizet and going through the plot, she followed the Fate motif throughout the opera. She did not go into detail about the Fate motif from a musicology standpoint, avoiding an explanation of augmented seconds and so forth.
The opera house was not particularly full, and I was given an orchestra ticket by a person who worked the opera before Act I, an unusual event. Unfortunately, I was seated directly in front of a woman with terrible congestion, she coughed and blew her nose during the entire opera. Unsatisfied by merely making all sorts of involuntary noises, the person in seat R 9 also talked quite a lot to her two companions in seats R 11 and 13. Among some of their erudite comments were: "Well, isn't that convenient," "They are like statues," and "Everyone is up there." Utterly charming, it is good to remember why I like standing room over the orchestra seating.
I was also rather confused by the pronunciation of the proper names in this opera. "Escamillo" was said with a glide, as in Spanish, but "José" was pronounced with an initial affricate, as in French, yet the final vowel was a stressed close-mid front vowel, as in Spanish.