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Carmen's Bold Staging Captivates at Opera Carolina

March 15, 2010

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    March 15, 2010
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    Opera Carolina News

Carmen's Bold Staging Captivates at Opera Carolina

When opera star Denyce Graves withdrew from Opera Carolina’s production of Carmen for medical reasons in early February, many opera goers in and around Charlotte let out a collective groan as Graves' performance was one that was amongst the most anticipated of the 2010 season. No opera more than Carmen after all leans as heavily on its lead than Bizet's comique classic.

Queen city opera goers it turns out needn't have worried. Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez not only steps in for Graves in the title role but demonstrates the depth, range and physicality to make the demanding Spanish Gypsy her own and does so with sparkle, sensuality and aplomb.

Chavez anchors a fine ensemble of talented performers that include: Carl Tanner in his opera Carolina debut as Don Jose, Anne-Carolyn Bird as Micaela, Kristopher Irmiter as Escamillo, and Diane McEwin-Martin as Frasquita. Dan Boye is Zuniga with Carla Dirlikov and Brian Arreola as Mercedes and Remandado respectively.

How does a piece such as this stand the test of time over one hundred and twenty-five years to become one of the most beloved operas of all time? Start with a larger than life, sexy, strong, beautiful female lead who enjoys playfully toying with her men, a dramatic and rich score, wonderful dance, vibrant color, romanticism, bull fights, murder, class struggle and a tragic end and the recipe for a masterpiece is born.

Opera Carolina's treatment is nothing less than resplendent. Tanner's Don Jose is powerful and filled with deep gravitas. His treatment truly carries the performance and his solo at the end of Act two brought the crowd to their feet.

Bird offers a similar heft in her Micaela, the Opera's underdog. Though appearing only briefly and primarily in Acts one and three, Bird's strength and command of character resonate in her unfailing and heart-rendering performance that left the audience wishing Bizet had created a larger role for her.

Of course Bizet carved the most delicious part for the eponymous character and Chavez does not disappoint as the particularly sexy and tempting sorceress, Carmen. Bold, big and filled with bravado, she doesn't shy away from her role though at no time does she approach what I suspect to be her fullest, seemingly holding just a bit back in reserve.

Opera Carolina's chorus deserves special mention as their background lends an at times menacing and mellow underpinning to Bizet's score.

Pacing in a piece like Carmen can be problematic. Coming in at just under three hours, this four act production has a great deal of story to tell. Director Bernard Uzan keeps the pace quick, his actors in constant motion and choreographs an extremely physical performance.

With an unmistakable and timeless score, Opera Carolina has delivered a Carmen that even Don Jose's poor dying mother might love.

By Michael J. Solender

To read the original article, visit Michael's J. Solender's blog, NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?.