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As the Cincinnati opera goes outdoors for a pandemic, a stunning cast soars in a winding “Carmen”



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In the final scene of “Carmen” produced by Cincinnati Opera on Saturday night, obsessed Don Jose pulled out his gun and aimed at his deceased lover Carmen. At that moment, the stage rushed into bright red lighting. This effect also illuminated the 153-foot-high observatory behind.

The bold stroke was an impressive “coup” ending the unprecedented production of Bizet’s opera at the former Blue Ash Summit Park. After last summer’s festival was canceled for Covid, Cincinnati Opera has put a lot of effort into hosting this festival (101st), where the Health and Safety Protocol was implemented. The season is held outdoors, not in the music hall. This is the first outdoor production in 50 years since the opera was performed at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

This season, the same stage as the rock show was built at the foot of the tower. A huge screen is adjacent to the Lincoln Center-style video projection and subtitle stage. A sophisticated sound system projects music onto the park’s three-acre great mortgage. Here, friends and family are sitting in their “pods.”

At the free Opera in the Park concert on July 11th, we gave the crew an overview of all this technology. However, there was a summer pop-up storm in the area, with all eyes on the threatening sky. Artistic director Evans Mirageas sent about 1,000 spectators to Saturday’s sold-out opening night spectators, saying that in the event of lightning or downpour, the opera would “pause” for at least 30 minutes.

Fortunately, there were no drops. The Cincinnati Reds had seven rain delays at the Great American Ball Park, but the weather was smiling at the Cincinnati Opera.

This allowed the company to focus on the excellent cast it built for the summary version of “Carmen.” Mirageas and conductor Ramon Tebar trimmed the opera to about 1 hour and 45 minutes without a break, omitting dialogue (but with recitatives) and some large choruses and lines.

Following the AGMA guidelines, I removed the masks of the singers and dancers who performed in front of the stage. Singers and musicians were amplified with a microphone-Saturday’s sound system had some glitches. The costume was modern and the design of the set was a spare.

With some restrictions, it was easily staged by Omer Ben Seadia. The character could only leap or spread chaotically on the platform in front of the orchestra. (There was no opera pit.) The behind-the-scenes scrim (lighted by Thomas C. Hase) provided a vague image that was only partially effective.

The world’s most performing opera, Carmen, is also one of the most winding operas. Towards the opening, Tever led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to read a bright and energetic overture, with four Cincinnati Ballet dancers (Jacqueline Damico Mador, Christina Laforgia Morse, Taylor Carasco and Matthew Griffin) providing the colors. .. This was the first of several finely choreographed numbers by Ebony Adams.

The title character is the bohemian power of nature that trains the unfortunate Don Jose’s mind. The mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, who debuted her company as Femme Fatale, was the total package. At the opening “Habanera”, he wore a white jumpsuit, walked on the stage, and while communicating with the voice of richness and strength, he spread his red heels and kicked up. In every situation, she told her she was unaware of the fear of a woman who wanted to remain free at any cost – this shortened version lacked her charm. One of her most fascinating moments was the card scene that predicted her death. There, she sang in a calm and solemn manner, “Cards never lie.”

As Carmen’s desperate lover, soldier Don Jose and tenor Stephen Costello consistently made a strong and enthusiastic voice. His flower song (“La fleur que tum’avais jetée”) was unforgettable when he devoted himself to reaching the treble effortlessly. Even outdoors, all the words were clear. His artistry was also evident in the fascinating first act duet with Mikaela. In his last ardent duet with Carmen, it was clear that his love consumed him beyond hope.

One of the real joys of this work was witnessing the moving interpretation of Mikaela sung by Janai Bruger with beautiful lines and creamy tones. Her air of prayer for strength (“Jedis que rienne m’épouvante”) was painful when expressing the journey from despair to solution.

Christian Pursell, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati Conservatory, was shining as a bullfighter, Escamiro. He entered in a salmon-colored dapper suit, threw flowers, and shook a spectacular bass-baritone with a toreador song.

André Courville, as Zuniga, provided a solid, powerful bass and an overwhelming presence. Small roles such as Thomas Dolly’s (El Dancaire), Victor Ryan Robertson (El Remendard), Raven McMillon (Frasquita) and Melody Wilson (Mercedes) were also okay. Their pattern quintet with Carmen singing the praise of smuggling was delightful.

The chorus prepared by Henri Venanji worked well despite the challenge of separating on both sides of the stage.

Of course, playing great outdoor amplified music, such as the short glitches of the sound system and the balance of loud sounds, was also a challenge. However, it was a miracle to see the live opera.

“Carmen” will be repeated at the Summit Park on July 22, 26 and 30 at 8:30 pm. This season’s performances have been sold out. Check cincinnatiopera.org for availability.


Janelle Gelfand’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute of Music Criticism, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.


As the Cincinnati opera goes outdoors for a pandemic, a stunning cast soars in a winding “Carmen”

Source link As the Cincinnati opera goes outdoors for a pandemic, a stunning cast soars in a winding “Carmen”

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