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Met’s ‘Carmen’ — the HD theatrical versionBY: Steve Cohen 01.22.2010
My reservations about the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Carmen were swept away when I saw the luscious Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca on a big movie screen.
Carmen. Opera by Georges Bizet; directed by Richard Eyre; Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor. Live high-definition theatrical version February 3, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at selected movie theaters; PBS telecast, May 16, 2010. This production will be seen again in theaters Wednesday, February 3, at 6:30 p.m. Eventually available as a DVD. www.metoperafamily.org.
Swept away by those movie close-upsSTEVE COHEN
I feel like Don José. Despite my critical assessment of Carmen, now that I’ve seen her close-up, I find myself falling in love with her.
That’s the impact of Elina Garanca, the Latvian mezzo-soprano who stars in the title role of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of the opera. The reservations I expressed in my earlier review were swept away when I saw her in the same role on a big movie screen.
Carmen was shown recently in 1,000 movie theaters in North America, Latin America and Europe to a total live audience of 240,000, with additional viewings to come. Although I saw the production at the Met a few days earlier, this was an entirely different experience. And, of course, this is the version that far more people will see.
Garanca is a beautiful woman. In addition, she uses subtle glances and facial movements to reveal her character’s feelings. This expressiveness can only be fully appreciated in high definition. Glimpses of breast and of thigh added to her allure.
Faces in the crowd
Gary Halvorson, who directed this production for TV, deserves credit too. His camera work highlighted passionate moments— Don José exchanging a bloody handclasp to join the gang of smugglers, and his thrusting of a knife against Carmen’s face during their final confrontation, for example. Halvorson also maneuvered his cameras effectively in the crowd scenes, so that we saw many good shots of faces. This was the most visually effective of all Met HD transmissions, and I look forward to an encore screening February 3.
Garanca’s singing and vocal interpretation are excellent too, with nice shading and coloring. My new love isn’t quite perfect— only human. She loses heft in lower passages, as when she sang the word “fini” in the final duet and she dropped from a strong G to a weak middle C. Garanca sounds best at the top of her range.
A sexier Escamillo
The theatrical transmission provided another pleasant surprise when Teddy Tahu Rhodes replaced an indisposed Mariusz Kwiecien as Escamillo the toreador. Rhodes is a tall, slender New Zealander who looks like a matinee idol, and his voice is darker and more exciting than Kwiecien’s. Rhodes made his debut with the Met in Peter Grimes in 2008 and is scheduled for more appearances as Escamillo this spring.
(As a matter of policy, the New York Times, as well as some other publications, decline to re-review shows and operas when casts change. Consequently, their readers remain uninformed about such developments as Rhodes’s substitution. That’s their loss.)
On this repeated viewing I was again impressed with Roberto Alagna’s moving portrayal of Don José and with Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting. The maestro brings out nuance from the orchestra and the singers.
When you read about a conductor’s “pliancy” and “expressiveness,” you may think those are code words for slowness and for indulging singers’ egos. Not so in this case. Listen, for example, to the steady build-up from the quietness of the Flower Song to the conclusion of Act II, when José joins Carmen and the chorus on the ringing high Cs of “la liberté!” It’s a beautifully calibrated, ten-minute dramatic crescendo.♦
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