Captivating Carmen!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2017-06-06 04:48

It's just as well opera is primarily about singing. That way it can survive the agendas of self-indulgent full-time Wimmin intent on hijacking it with their political bents. Lindy Hume, director of NZ Opera's current production of Carmen, says one of her challenges has been to "create a version which I find philosophically acceptable." So much for directors being servants of composers! Philosophically acceptable?!

I shuddered to think what butchering might occur in the name of Political Correctness. Carmen, hot-blooded heterosexual: Carmen, stroppy lesbian? Don José, soldier: Donna Joséa, social worker? Escamillo, bullfighter: Escamilla, animal rights activist? Fortunately we were spared such atrocities and Bizet/Halévy/Meilhac/Mérimée, as best I could tell, survived pretty much intact. Carmen was certainly stroppy, but then, she always is. In Hume's words, "funny, smart, sexy, forthright and deeply messed up." In fact, I would argue that "deeply messed up" is wrong, that Carmen was simply true to herself in a way that few women (and even fewer men) ever are or know how to be ... and recognising that makes one a better "feminist" than Mzzzzzzzzzz Hume!

The danger of not only PC but also ordinariness faced the show in the form of unimaginative and unmemorable set and costumes. Why could we not see James Clayton resplendent in toreador regalia, at least? Again, however, singing to the rescue. Nino Surguladze was a captivating and committed Carmen, lush and even throughout her registers. The open-throated Mr. Clayton didn't need matador raiments to be a credible contender for Carmen's affections—who wouldn't fall for such a free and ringing Top F? Tom Randle, though his lyric tenor was fully stretched in a role that needs more spinto, was a passionate Don José, pitifully hapless when required, rendering an exquisite Flower Song that, lamentably, went unapplauded (except by me). Emma Pearson fair stole the show as Micaela with her rapturous soprano and its soaring top that veritably spun around the ceilings of the St James. The chorus, especially the rollicking urchins, were splendid, as were Orchestra Wellington under the baton of the frisky Francesco Pasqualetti.

Nor were the audience short-changed in the drama department. The tension as Don José was working himself up to kill Carmen had several ladies in my vicinity working their atomisers overtime (was this an asthma support group?). Others were observed to jump out of their seats when the moment, very effectively enacted, actually occurred. Fake blood stained the stage; real tears stained the faces of many in the audience.

Through it all blazed the unceasing glory of Bizet's music. Its relentless tunefulness is an imperishable reproach to trendy post-modernists—pomowankers as I like to call them—who have abandoned melody altogether. The fact that Bizet packed the house, and not just with dinosaurs like myself, tells me the reign of nihilism is coming to an end, along with that of all other anti-human PC ideologies that have so gripped perverse mankind over the past century.

NZ Opera's Carmen plays three more times in Wellington, then travels to Auckland and Christchurch. Highly recommended. Pack your tissues, fasten your seatbelts ... and replenish your atomisers!

Log swirling...

Olivia's picture

heh heh heh - thank goodness for that, LWF. I'll be skipping this Carmen though, due to saving for my travels.

I am going to the finale of the Michael Hill comp, I was gifted some tickets so am greatly looking forward to that. Hoping there's not going to be too much Prokofiev else I'll leave early. Last time there was, but the Mendelssohn and Sibelius VCs very much made up for it.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Female attire is not my specialty, as you know, Lady Slapper, but I think LS would approve of the log/swirling skirt action Smiling

I hope you Aucklanders go to see it. I'd like to think I'm not the only one to be annoyed by the derelictions I described. Overall, though, it remained very, very powerful.

I hope...

Olivia's picture

that in this pared down performance Carmen at least had a costume with flowing skirts to throw around as she sang the seductive Habanera! Smiling

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