Thursday, July 29, 2010

Opera Note: Second Thoughts on the Met's Carmen

Mr. and Mrs. Buce  took a second look at the Met's HD Carmen last night (cf. link) and independently reached the same conclusion: the trouble is that it is too perfect. That is: everybody knows what they're supposed to do and they do almost everything right. It's great fun to listen to and to watch--you just want to nibble Elina Garanca from top to toe. But Carmen is not about perfection. It's about fate & danger & sex & anarchy and all those things that make us all suspect that the folks down south eat and drink better than we do and get laid more often. The best performances come charging a you with all their energy, plus the not-quite remote possibility that you might get your guts ripped open by a pointed horn. But for all her attention to detail, there is just nothing about Garanca to suggest that she is the bearer of a doomed passion. So also Teddy Tahu Rhodes: he certainly knows how to swivel his hips in those bullfighter trousers but there is just enough self-mockery in his performance to remind you that he is really a much nicer man than that. Also the choruses: there is some wonderful chorus material in Carmen but it needs to be done on the edge of recklessness; the children's chorus in particular should scare the daylights out of you.  Here they were polished, disciplined and, well, flat--not musically, but dramatically flat, and it hurt.

I'll make a couple of exceptions. One, as Micaƫla, Barbara Frittoli brings off a tough job: she makes memorable a character whose very point is her non-memorability--the country girl with so few options that even her nitwit of a soldier looks like a promising possibility.

The nitwit in question would be Roberto Alagna as Don Jose, and here we disagreed a bit. Mrs. B. thought he lacked passion. He did, but I'm not sure Don Jose has a lot of passion. He's a not-very-bright, not-very-high-principled country boy who thinks with his equipment and doesn't really recognize trouble until it comes trampling on his neck.

1 comment:

Toni said...

My sentiments exactly on this production. Too perfect. Thanks for articulating it so well. By the way, I've seen Barbara Frittoli on a lot of DVDs. She can always be counted on. And as for Don Jose, I love your analysis -- that's how I see him too and, as a result, thought Alagna did a fine job. I have Garanco on DVD as Dorabella and love her harmonizing with her soprano sister. But as Carmen and as Cenerentola, she left me flat.