Double Your Pleasure: New York City Opera Review, “Carmen” (Part II)

Here’s what Sidekick thought…

When I was a wee Sidekick, my family wasn’t all that into classical music, and somehow I managed to go thirty years without bumping elbows with any version of George Bizet’s Carmen. My fam did, however, watch a lot of sitcoms. Thus, it was deliciously exciting when the overture started for New York City Opera’s revival of the uber-opera and the music from every mediocre sitcom chase scene filled the New York State Theater—weee! During the Toreador song in the second act, I had to bite my tongue to keep from singing.

Having no knowledge of the story beforehand, the tale of love/hate lovers still resonated for me despite the 1875 sell date. Who hasn’t wanted to stab a significant other? And how can you not love a buxom, brunette gypsy in love with the idea of being in love?

While the translation of the French is broadcast in limited subtitles above the stage, Beth Clayton’s Carmen conveys the complicated anti-heroine with easily accessible gestures—an eye roll perfectly illustrates Carmen’s annoyance at her lover’s ex-girlfriend who uses his sick mother to lure him back home: a rigid spine conveys her brazen decision to confront her jealous paramour despite her giggly girlfriends pleas she avoid him.

As her obsessed lover, Don Jose (played by Scott Piper) is less facile to understand. While his emotional turmoil registers clearly in the second act where he gives into Carmen’s sexy castanets dance and decides to leave his military station and run away with her band of gypsies, his motivations seem less clear as his love spirals into a kind of hatred toward the object of his affection. While I wanted to believe his final rage-driven act, I wasn’t sure he’d earned the right to call Carmen both a demon and his beloved.

Far more dynamic is Don Jose’s rival, played by Carlos Archuleta, who owns the stage with his strong baritone each time his bullfighting Escamillo sashays on the scene to swing his cape and woo the women.

Though the acoustics of the New York State Theater seemed a little dodgy—at points the principals voices were hard to hear even from only a few rows back in the orchestra—the back-up singers (do we call them that in opera) were lively and engaging. A children’s chorus even managed a well-choreographed dance number without the usual creepy haunted quality of short people in symmetry. Paul Shortt’s sets are also a little iffy. The desolate, rundown cityscape seems at odds with the Eduardo V. Sicangco decadent costumes, especially the be-jeweled gowns worn by the woman in the bullfight.

But overall, I give it a big old yes: So much better than all those sitcom chase scenes.

“Carmen” will be performed again TONIGHT, and various nights through November 17.

Now read what Counter Critic had to say…


1 Comment

  1. […] Now read what Sidekick had to say… […]

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