A strong Carmen with a superb Kaufmann and a potential superstar in Rachvelishvili
Carmen has always been a favourite of mine, in fact as much as I love Gounod's Faust I consider Carmen THE French opera especially for the music and the titular character. This La Scala Carmen is not one of my favourites of the opera, the 1984 and 1967 films are my favourites. However, while the sound occasionally lacks oomph in Act 1, and there will be controversial aspects of the staging such as the photographs of the dying bulls, which is not a pleasant sight especially when you're eating at the time, and Don Jose's almost-rape of Carmen, which I felt brutalised too much a sympathetic turned angry/tormented character, it has great musical values and performances and is done with great energy.
The costumes and sets show enough detail and sumptuousness to satisfy, and the stage direction crackles with energy especially with the cigarette girls bathing in the town square and the scenes in the smugglers' lair. The video directing and camera work are almost cinematic in style and look crisp and clear and the sound while lacking a tad in Act 1 improves dramatically in Act 2, doing well to enhance the action and the characters' emotions. Musically, it is wonderful, with the orchestral playing vigorous, nuanced and full of authentic Spanish flavour and the chorus are energetic and well balanced especially in the Les Voici Chorus.
And Daniel Barenboim's conducting is enigmatic, both in how he commanded the orchestra and his body language, such as his joking with the orchestra, vibrating an outstretched hand signifying for the volume to come down and him trying to get comfortable in his chair. As for the principal performances, it is every bit as impressive. I was surprised by Adriana Damato Micaela, I have always considered Micaela a rather flat character and Damato makes an effort to make Micaela more than she actually is, a very heartfelt performance indeed. Erwin Schrott doesn't quite have the "look at me charisma" of Ramey in the 1978 Met production, but his Escamillo is commanding, especially in his Toreador Song and Fight Scene with Don Jose, and done with swagger and a sonorous baritone voice. Morales, Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercedes are also solid.
Jonas Kaufmann is superb as Don Jose, for me the best in the role since Domingo. His voice is of a dark, baritone-like timbre yet with a ringing top and some of the best musicality of any singer today. His acting is sympathetic, tormented and often very moving. The final scene is full of terrifying passion, but he is at his best in the Flower Song which is devastating emotionally. After this performance, Anita Rachvelishvili promises to become a potential superstar. Her Carmen is simply scintillating, as Carmen should be like she is passionate and very sexy, you can absolutely see why Don Jose fell in love with her in the first place. Her voice is of a sensuous, limpid quality.
Overall, a strong Carmen even with a couple of controversial aspects. Musically, it is wonderful, the staging is full of energy, Kaufmann is superb and I see a lot of promise in Rachvelishvili. 8/10 Bethany Cox
0 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?