Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carmen at the Met

Last night, my husband and I watched a re-broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of one of the most familiar operas of all time, Carmen by Bizet. The quality of the set and costuming was amazing, and watching was like actually being up on stage with the performers.

While Carmen is now the 4th most performed opera in America, it was not always so. According to Wikipedia, "The opera premiered at the Opéra-Comique of Paris on 3 March 1875, but its opening run was denounced by the majority of critics.... Near the end of this run, the theatre was giving tickets away in order to stimulate attendance. Bizet died of a heart attack, aged 36, on 3 June 1875, never knowing how popular Carmen would become." Yet another genius dies before his artistic endeavors are fully appreciated.

The lead role of Carmen was played by mesmerizing Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca. As a fiery gypsy who seduces and ultimately ruins soldier Don Jose, Carmen’s every move and look exudes confident, seductive power. Her sexual prowess contrasts with the other female lead Micaela, a "goody two shoes" who Don Jose jilts in favor of the more whorish Carmen.

Besides the "good girl vs. loose woman" archetype, another theme the opera explores is the destructive force of lust and selfishness in romantic relationships. These themes make the opera as applicable today as it would have been in 1830 when it was set. (Interestingly, this production by the Met changes the time period to the 1930's, setting the events against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.)

We recognized many of the famous songs featured in Carmen, which are now stuck in our head. Here’s to opera appreciation, certainly one of the finer things in life!

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