Carmen shakes things up, everywhere she goes! And, we LOVE it!

Two major North American companies are simultaneously staging Bizet’s “Carmen”, the Metropolitan Opera and the Canadian Opera Company.  It seems that Carmen, the woman and the opera, generates headlines and shakes things up no matter where she goes.  At both houses, cancellations made headlines and understudies either impressed or didn’t, much to the chagrin or pleasure of devoted Carmenites. Here are some reviews of both productions.

From the Associated Press: Gheorghiu cancels remainder of Carmen at the Met

Angela Gheorghiu

Metropolitan Opera Carmen stars Franco’s thugs and a Latvian Diva: Bloomberg

Elina Garanca

She’s Got Castanets, so let Carmen Dance from the New York Times

A scene from this season’s production of “Carmen”: to dance or not to dance?

Last minute stand in Carmen saves Canadian Opera Company’s Carmen from La Scena Musicale

Rinat Shaham fires up Toronto

Seductive, Sultry Carmen heats up the COC’S 2009/10 Winter Season from La Scena Musicale

COC’S “Carmen”

Carmen, “whoever she is”, seduces her way into the Canadian Opera Company

A scene from the COC’s “tawdry” Carmen.

The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bizet’s audience favourite, “Carmen,” opened at the Four Seasons Center two nights ago.  The original announcement had Beth Clayton in the role of the seductive gypsy, but according to “Fashion Magazine,” Ms. Clayton announced her withdrawal from the role on January 20th, leaving little time for the COC to find replacements for a production that would begin in a few days.  The second announcement had Israelli mezzo-soprano, Rinat Shaham (above), replacing Clayton, who withdrew for “health reasons.”  Shaham is performing Jan. 27, 30, Feb. 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, and her alternate, Anita Rachvelishvili on Feb. 17, 20, 23, 27.  Micaela is portrayed by Canadian soprano, Jessica Muirhead, Don Jose is played by both Bryan Hymel (above) and Garrett Sorenson, and Escamillo is Paul Gay.

In and of itself, Bizet’s opera was controversial in its day, for its fusion of comedy and tragedy, its gutsy realism, and in-your-face female heroine, the universally desired, Carmencita.  But, it seems that controversy follows Carmen wherever she goes, the COC notwithstanding.

Here are some reviews.  Enjoy.

COC Carmen too Tawdry by John Coulbourne of the QMI Agency

Trio of Singers Redeems Flawed Carmen from the Globe and Mail

Carmen in

According to these, once again, the purity and authenticity of opera has been marred by producers and directors trying to project more from the opera than is actually necessary.  Actually, it’s more a “dumbing down”, which probably should offend the intelligence of operagoers.  If you strip it down to the nitty-gritty, opera says everything it needs to say, as it is.  I wonder whether directors feel that to make it “sexier,” “more disturbing,” or even “more interesting”, they need to over-emphasize the wonderful subtleties that audiences actually adore, subtleties that composers like Bizet, Verdi, and even Beethoven, already imbedded within their operatic fabric.  Have audiences changed all that much that we need it–whatever “it” is–shoved in our faces for fear we didn’t get it?   I think we get it!