... Having convinced myself that timeliness is a virtue unknown to anyone whose screen-name is only a couple of letters different from both a slug and a snail, I indulge myself on procrastination and happily fail to acknowledge the unfashionable-ness of writing about things a whole week after they had gone out of the hip list. After all, Haiti remains quite thoroughly ruined now as it was a week ago, and Elina Garanca's performance as Carmen last week at the Met can't get any less stellar no matter how late I report on it.... I think.In case anyone still isn't privy to it, the Metropolitan Opera is having quite good success broadcasting many of its performances in high definition to movie theaters around the globe. If you are living in a big American city, chances are there is a theater near you carrying the gig!
I should state outright that I went into the well packed theater rather skeptical of Elina Garanca in the title role of this fiery Spanish-flavored French opera. She has always struck me as something of a gorgeous voiced ice queen, whose singing is invariably flawless and dramatically uninvolving. But man, how wrong she showed me to be last Saturday! That she is one of the most beautiful women to grace the operatic stage is already a given, but that she could transform herself into a deliciously poisonous femme fatale to gay guys and straight women (and everything in between) alike was a revelation worth paying a fortune to see (which I didn't... tickets to Met HD broadcast are only $22!).
Frau G was gorgeous with clothes on (and even more when it was just barely on... as was the case in the final scene) and sang gorgeously and expressively even when afflicted with all the dance moves imposed on her by Richard Eyre, the stage director (how in the world does she keep singing like that while being carried around supine by the dancers in a mystery worth a scientific investigation). I still think she slipped back into cold and detached singing during the most dramatic moments of the opera (Act III tarot card scene and the final scene with Jose) and that sometimes her super clean French diction gets in the way of the music, but theatrically the lass was absolutely beyond any criticism through out the evening.
As her temperamental Don Jose was the acclaimed French tenor, Roberto Alagna, whose Sicilian disposition is a perfect fit for the hot blooded soldier from Navarre. As theatrically convincing as he was, though, his singing was rather suspect especially up top. After quite a few wayward top notes during his duet with the stellar Micaela of Barbara Frittoli (beautifully well rounded portrayal if with too wide a vibrato on held notes) you could actually see his Carmen quietly bracing for the worst as her Jose worked himself up to the climatic lines of the famous Act II flower song.... which was quite drastically improvised into a phraseful of falsetto. But one must give M. Alagna credit for his rallying back in the final two acts and earning his warm ovations at the curtain. Everyone has a bad day every now and then, to dig himself in and make a fine lemonade out of a (hopefully temporary) sour voice is a good show of character!
Mariusz Kwiecien was slated to sing Escamillo (I liked him a lot when he was here singing the Count in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in 2007) but took ill and was replaced on short notice by New Zealander Teddy Tahu Rhodes (previously known to me as the Pilot in Portman's The Little Prince), who gave a good performance as a dashing and very tall bull fighter. The young Canadian maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin led the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra on a spirited pace that made the whole show seemed half its length (a good thing considering that the one intermission lasted a good 40 minutes!).
If this show is ever released as a commercial DVD, I'd be hard pressed to have to choose between it and the DVD from the ROH with Anna Caterina Antonacci and Jonas Kaufmann as Carmen and Jose (Garanca compares very well with Antonacci, whose choreography makes her seem too vulgar for me for much of the show. Kaufmann gives the superior performance on both theatrical and musical front, though I like Nézet-Séguin's brisk pacing better than Pappano's sometimes sluggish tempo, but the ROH cast also has Elena Xanthoudakis as its sterling voiced Frasquita).... Though I'm still hoping for a DVD release of this same opera from Opernhaus Zurich with the singular Vesselina Kasarova in the title role! Three good recent DVDs of the show surely is better than just one, ay?
Anyhow, the sold out audience were rightfully ecstatic about the performance (and it seems the Met is enjoying quite a box office hit with the thing). I'm compelled to try to catch the re-broadcast of Der Rosenkavalier next Wednesday... and get into a seriously operatic mood by the time the San Diego Opera season begins with La Boheme on the 30th!