United States Bizet, Carmen: Soloists, Youngsters’s Refrain – Uniting Voices Chicago, Refrain and Orchestra of Lyric Opera of Chicago / Henrik Nánási (conductor). Civic Opera Home, Chicago, 11.3.2023. (JLZ)
Director – Marie Lambert-Le Bihan
Units – Robin Don
Costumes – Robert Perdziola
Lighting – Chris Maravich
Refrain Grasp – Michael Black
Youngsters’s Refrain Grasp – Josephine Lee
Choreographer – Stephanie Martinez
Moralès – Ian Rucker
Micaëla – Golda Schultz
Don José – Charles Castronovo
Zuniga – Wm. Clay Thompson
Carmen – J’Nai Bridges
Frasquita – Denis Vélez
Mercédès – Katherine DeYoung
Escamillo – Andrei Kymach
Lillas Pastia – Alejandro Luévanos
Dancaïre – Laureano Quant
Remendado – Ryan Capozzo
With this new Carmen, Lyric Opera of Chicago has revived one of many works that was a part of its 1954 opening season. The perennially well-liked opera advantages from the efforts of director Marie Lambert-Le Bihan’s designer, Robin Don, to create units that each set up the tone and supply a helpful area for performing.
The standard units embody a spacious city sq. in Act I, Lillas Pastia’s multi-level inn for the second, a slim mountain cross within the third and bullfighting grounds for Act IV. The final act is particularly ingenious: outstanding doorways shut on the area one after the other whereas Carmen and Don José have their final encounter, and the refrain’s interjections concerning the profitable bullfight underscore their trade. This last act is, maybe, essentially the most profitable of the 4 each visually and dramatically.
The inclusion of spoken dialogue returns a well known aspect of the opera to the stage. However this raises questions right here about dialogue in an opera home – the sound ranges are low and the supply had pauses that halted the move between musical numbers and spoken passages, and even inside exchanges. Maybe the scale of the efficiency area is a consideration, because it may need labored higher in a smaller space. Nonetheless, the dialogue assisted in connecting the libretto and the motion, with out the omissions that typically happen.
Among the many different issues is the staging of the youngsters’s refrain on the altering of the guard within the first act. The scene’s blocking places the refrain on the heart of the stage, with the entry of the troopers seeming incidental despite the fact that the youngsters mimic them. That acknowledged, the refrain had , blended sound, however the tempos of the refrain and the orchestra differed at instances.
Points with tempos occurred elsewhere, as within the first a part of Act II when the performers on stage have been out of synch with the orchestra. That lack of coordination could also be the results of the choreography, because the loud faucets on the wood tables have been additionally out of synch. It was bold to attempt to coordinate orchestra, vocal ensembles and choreography, but it’s attainable to make the weather mix if the main focus stays on the pit and, particularly, conductor Henrik Nánási.
Nánási has carried out at Lyric Opera a number of instances lately, together with The Marriage of Figaro (2015-2016) and Madama Butterfly (2019-2020). Even along with his expertise in the home, the prelude to Act I didn’t mix, with the brass and percussion dominating the sonorities. At instances, the strings appeared lacking, and that detracted from the wealthy sound that characterizes the well-known prelude in addition to different numbers. Whereas not persistent, related problems with stability affected scenes within the first two acts. Later within the night, a few of the horn passages in Act III have been marred by intonation issues, however that was resolved by the fourth act. (Little doubt all the problems affecting this Carmen on the primary evening will enhance in successive performances.)
As to the principals, J’Nai Bridges introduced her well-considered interpretation to the position. She was at her finest in Act IV, the place she gave the ultimate trade with Don José full voice. As Don José, Charles Castronovo introduced his heat, resonant sound to the position, and was notably efficient within the first act’s ‘Seguidilla’, which hinted on the depth he would convey to the ultimate act. It was a pleasure to listen to soprano Golda Schultz as Micaëla and to take pleasure in her impassioned but lyrical method to the character’s two arias. Her extroverted remedy of her aria in Act III juxtaposed the personas of Micaëla and Carmen and arrange the dénouement.
Carmen continues to carry its place in opera repertoire, and the issues with the main points of this manufacturing shouldn’t deter anybody from having fun with the efforts of these concerned, particularly all of the proficient principals. The mixture of a compelling story, memorable music and three-dimensional characters makes it an opera that endures. If the character of Carmen is tough to pin down in relation to the motivation that brings the drama to its conclusion, this staging has succeeded not solely in permitting audiences to benefit from the work, however in scary them to consider it too.
James L. Zychowicz