I have been a big opera enthusiast for as long as I can remember, and Carmen is one of my many favourites. In fact, while I do love Faust, I consider Carmen THE French opera. The story while simple is timeless in its themes and of its telling and has plenty of beauty and passion, Carmen as a titular character lives long in the memory and I have run out of words to describe how good the music is, and that is not just Habanera and Toreador's Song, the Card Trio/Fortune telling scene, Don Jose's Flower Song, Micaela's Je Dis Que Rien Ne M'Envouvente and the Les Voici chorus also stand out.
This production is exhilarating. As much as I love the opera and as much as I was interested in the production, I did initially have reservations about it being in 3D. I have nothing personal against it, I just worried whether it was necessary and whether it would be good, having seen one too many cases where it hasn't. I needn't had worried, for apart from the odd one where it was rather dark and lacked clarity, the 3D is mostly quite good and actually enhances rather than distracts. The most effective was the opening shot where an imprisoned Don Jose stretches out his hands pleadingly, a touch I found both original and symbolic.
To me, this is not the best production of Carmen, my favourites are still the 1984 and 1967 films(and the 1983 film with the Flamenco dancing was visually stunning and vivid too), but it doesn't try to be. What it was was a traditional, solid and enormously entertaining experience that makes the most of a gimmick that either does or doesn't work and somehow it does work.
The production is not too shabby and not too elegant. The costumes are nice and sexy and the settings and backdrop have authenticity. Staging is excellent a lot of the time, effort is made into the entrance of the cigarette factory girls and the Lillia Pastias party, but my favourites are Carmen's seductive Habanera and the close up in the Fortune telling scene showing Carmen's tears, the latter of which I found both moving and powerful. Carmen's death scene is also quite dramatic.
The camera work is excellent, stylish without losing momentum, with some very effective close ups especially(as mentioned) Don Jose's at the beginning and Carmen's during the Fortune telling scene, and the sound also has no major qualms. The subtitles make the dialogue and singing easy to follow, the dialogue is delivered with energy and I loved the refreshing idea to show the performers preparing to go on stage.
Musically, this Carmen cannot be faulted. The orchestration has plenty of Spanish flavour, and the conducting with vigour. The Chorus are also to be credited, their contribution especially the Les Voici chorus is in no way easy, and not only do they blend and sing beautifully while never feeling perfunctory but their acting manages to be also be lively.
The performances are exceptional. Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercedes are solid as rocks, both in acting and singing, but it's the four leads that captivate. Aris Argiris sings bullfighter Escamillo with confidence and swagger and Toreador's Song is done with great style and energy, and Maija Kovalevska brings nobility and poignancy to Micaela complete with an emotionally devastating Je Dis Que Rien Ne M'Enpouvente. Bryan Hymmel is a suitably sympathetic Don Jose, but it is the electrifying performance- vivid acting and a nicely even use of low and high registers- of Christine Rice as the seductive Carmen that makes the production so worth watching.
All in all, exhilarating and definitely worthwhile, whether you love opera or not. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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