Carmen is to me the quintessential French opera and is a personal favourite of mine. This production is good on the whole, though for truly outstanding performances of Carmen look to the films with Migenes-Johnson and Domingo from 1984 and with Bumbry and Vickers from 1967. There are things that could have been done better. There was a tendency for scenes to be too noisy and over-populated, there are scenes that call for that but there are also a lot that call for the principals to be left alone conveying their characters and their thoughts to the audience and also for the storytelling to speak for itself. There wasn't enough of that in this production, there were lots of extras and a lot of stage business that was too loud and not needed. Marco Berti does give the second best performance I've seen of his so far(his best being his 2004 Macduff)- saying a lot as I hated his his Radames, Ernani and especially his Enzo, that is not to say that it was particularly good though as while his tone is steadier and less shouty he doesn't have any dynamic range and he is a very uninvolving actor with little of the sympathy and anger of Don Jose coming out. Didn't care for Dario Berini either, his acting for Zuniga comprises of a lot of stolid presence and stock gestures, and his singing is frequently under-pitch and hollow-toned.
However, the costumes and sets were sumptuous, you did have the feeling that you were in Spain, and the production is well shot and recorded(except for a sudden drop in volume in the Toreador song). The orchestra play with vigour and passion, the chorus characterise beautifully and sound great and Alain Lombard keeps things moving without letting it go out of control. Apart from Berti and Berini, the performances are very good. I liked that Micaela was more highly-strung than the usual flat and passive character she really is, and apart from some acidity at the top she has a lovely voice, acts with pathos and has beautiful looks that make it easy to see what Don Jose saw in her in the first place(not sure whether I'd say the same for him though). Raymond Aceta has the best French diction of the cast, he has a handsome sturdy bass-baritone voice and has a great swagger to his stage presence. Frasquita, Mercedes and Morales also sing excellently. Marina Domashenko impressed most though, her dark and powerful voice, sensual and passionate acting, movie-star appearance and musicality more than make up for her diction, which was not very easy to understand. Overall, a good performance if not great. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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