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HomeOperaWashington Nationwide Opera’s Carmen: Enter the Final Feminist

Washington Nationwide Opera’s Carmen: Enter the Final Feminist

Washington Nationwide Opera’s Creative Director Francesca Zambello offers a superb present.  Rely on it.  For WNO’s first return to the Kennedy Middle’s Opera Home after a two-year pandemic-caused hiatus, she chosen and selected to self-direct Georges Bizet’s grand opera Carmen (1875), one of the crucial widespread operas of all time.  WNO additionally scheduled its annual GALA to coincide with Carmen’s opening, a GALA that raised over 1,000,000 {dollars} for WNO, making the occasion each a celebration and a efficiency.  It was a contented affair with tuxedos, night robes, and glowing jewels closely represented within the viewers. 

Carmen (Isabel Leonard) has many could be suitors. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

Ms. Zambello’s Carmen is a eye-catching, classical manufacturing which she squarely factors in direction of supporting feminism in the present day.  In her program notes, she says about Carmen, “For each selection she makes, she is conscious of the results, and he or she is absolutely ready to face them on her personal. ‘I used to be born free, and I’ll die free,’ she says many instances – and that’s precisely what she does.  I believe she is the final word feminist.”  My backside line on this report is “Roger that!”.

Composer Bizet died from coronary heart illness in 1875, on the age of 36, earlier than Carmen completed its preliminary run.  It’s mentioned that disappointment over the unfavorable reception of Carmen in Paris contributed to his bodily decline; he by no means knew of the success he had created.  Of lower than ten full operas by Bizet, solely The Pearl Fishers additionally stays in in the present day’s repertoire.  One of many first issues I bear in mind my son saying to me about opera was that Carmen had too many hit tunes to be an opera.  I typically surprise if Bizet had lived longer whether or not his work would have moved into musicals.  On condition that Carmen comprises some spoken dialog, it in all probability technically qualifies as a musical, although the vocals are absolutely operatic.  He did have a unprecedented present for excellent tunes.  Anybody who has watched tv or is a fan of the flicks has heard at the least excerpts of music from Carmen.  Maybe not, however one suspects that most individuals within the western world have hummed the Habanera or Sequidilla or Toreador arias at one time or one other.

Carmen (Isabel Leonard) has seduced Don José (Michael Fabiano). Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

Spoiler alert for the rest of this report – In massive measure Carmen succeeds by way of these tunes and Bizet’s nice orchestral music, nevertheless it has an unusually gripping story, like watching a prepare wreck you see coming however can’t look away.  Many critics who reviewed it in its day spurned it as being immoral.  An overtly sexual younger girl in Spain lives life freely as a Romani, a gypsy group largely rejected by Spanish society and who selected to stay outdoors the legislation; she considers her private freedom inviolate.  She seduces a corporal within the navy, Don José, and will get him into bother.  Pure-hearted Micaëla, his childhood sweetheart, fails to persuade him to return dwelling and marry her.  After he’s launched from a brief keep in jail, Carmen persuades him to abandon his unit and be a part of her in a bunch of gypsy smugglers.  She then begins to resent his makes an attempt to manage her, and he or she falls in love with a dashing bullfighter, Escamillio.  She tries to interrupt away, however Don José pursues her, desperately attempting to persuade her to return again to him.  She throws the ring he gave her at his toes, confirms her love for Escamillio, and challenges him to kill her or let her go.  Lastly satisfied she now not loves him and won’t return to him, in a second of rage, he stabs her to loss of life.  Bizet needed to compose music for all of this, the attractive playful and the murderous, together with including a Spanish gypsy aptitude.

Micaëla (Vanessa Vasquez) tries to steer Don José (Michael Fabiano) to return to his dwelling. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

On what was the opera primarily based – was there an actual Carmen?  In all probability, however the opera is fiction primarily based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella “Carmen”, printed in 1845, that relates tales Mérimée heard about Roma folks whereas touring in Spain; one story was of a stupendous younger girl who seduces after which rejects a soldier who kills her.  Bizet proposed this controversial option to skilled librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy for a brand new opera he was commissioned to compose for Opéra-Comique, a serious step up for Bizet.

The solid for WNO’s Carmen is comprised of worldwide opera stars for 3 of the principle roles: mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Carmen, tenor Michael Fabiano as corporal Don José, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Inexperienced as Escamillo, the bullfighter.  In Friday night time’s efficiency, Ms. Leonard sang superbly as she at all times does, and her appearing was detailed because it at all times is.  Her Habanera was enjoyable and nuanced however was extra skilled and measured than fiery.  One at all times expects an edgy spitfire from Carmen; she is usually characterised as hedonistic, impetuous, hot-tempered and cold-hearted.  This efficiency gave us a extra managed and calculating Carmen, very self-aware, not a lot stuffed with pent-up anger.  Was this the results of Ms. Leonard’s portrayal or Ms. Zambello emphasizing the feminist aspect?  The great thing about Ms. Leonard’s voice and her sexual attract got here by way of clearly in her pleasant Sequidilla (Près des remparts de Séville) and subsequent arias.  Mr. Fabiano’s lovely tenor voice and impassioned singing have been on show, however he appeared a misplaced soul from the start, not that troublesome a conquest for Carmen; I had bother seeing why Carmen was interested in him out of all her selections – she may have had an officer.   Their remaining scene collectively was intense, and their duets have been properly completed all through.  Mr. Inexperienced’s efficiency however was spirited and completely compelling from the second he arrived on stage, very plausible as a bullfighter; he introduced down the home along with his glorious Toreador aria.  On stage, he readily turned the main focus of consideration.

Escamillo (Ryan Speedo Inexperienced) enters on Honey, the white horse. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

The fourth foremost position, that of Micaëla was performed by the rising star soprano Vanessa Vasquez who sang superbly and was additionally convincing because the sweet-hearted girlfriend Don José gave up for Carmen; Bizet gave a few of the most lovely arias to Micaëla.  All 4 foremost performers have labored with WNO beforehand, although it was a primary in an opera position for Mr. Inexperienced.  Ms. Vasquez was Donna Anna in WNO’s 2020 Don Giovanni, one of many final, if not the final efficiency within the Opera Home earlier than the pandemic shut down.  I recall saying on the time that she was the very best Donna Anna I had seen; she additionally made an impressive Micaëla.  Among the many gifted supporting gamers have been a number of Cafritz Younger Artists who carried out admirably.  I particularly loved soprano Susannah Waddington and mezzo-soprano Hannah Shea as Carmen’s mates Frasquita and Mercédès.  Ms. Waddington has been a standout in this system, and Ms. Shea lately gained the annual Annapolis Opera Vocal Competitors.  Jonathan Bryan as officer Moralès, Kevin Quick as lieutenant Zuniga, Kyle Miller as Le Dancaïre, Duke Kim as Le Remendado, and Karma Camp as Lillas Pastia all deserve point out for including to the success of the efficiency. 

Escamillo (Ryan Speedo Inexperienced) entertains with crowd with Toreador. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

The formidable WNO Orchestra underneath the path of Conductor Evan Rogister performed Bizet’s marvelous music in superb accompanying vogue.  The choruses, males’s, ladies’s, and youngsters’s all gave pleasing performances, bringing Bizet’s glorious choral music to life.  Many refrain members, together with the youngsters have been used to good impact as characters on stage for the drama.  Kudos to Refrain Grasp Steven Gathman. 

A struggle breaks out between Carmen’s suitors, Don José (Michael Fabiano) and Escamillo (Ryan Speedo Inexperienced). Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

The staging by Director Zambello had units primarily composed of a few clay coloured partitions that have been moved about on a rotating platform to kind a courtyard, a tavern, and a smuggler’s camp for the the totally different scenes.  The interval costumes have been extra posh and added life to the efficiency.  Tanya McCallin served as each Set and Costume Designer.  Some features appeared a bit of overdone, corresponding to smoke bellowing forth from the cigarette manufacturing facility.  Apart from scenes with solely Carmen and Don José, the units have been typically stuffed with performers in lavish costumes; on the finish, the performers needed to assemble behind the stage and are available ahead in waves for his or her applause.  The staging additionally featured gildings, corresponding to having Escamillo trip in on a white horse, weapons fired in celebration, and climbers scaling partitions.  Though Ms. Zambello turned Washington Nationwide Opera Creative Director in 2012, her historical past of directing WNO productions started in 2001.  If I’ve counted appropriately, Carmen is her thirtieth staged opera for WNO.  Since I started attending and reporting on WNO operas in 2016, I’ve seen 10 of 12 that she has directed. So, I do know whereof I communicate: Ms. Zambello offers a superb present.

The solid in an instance of the lavish staging of WNO’s Carmen. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

Bizet’s music and the indomitable spirit of Carmen make this opera compelling theater.  You may be entertained for those who go, although it’s possible you’ll not bear in mind this manufacturing as the very best.  You’ll, nonetheless, possible bear in mind for a really very long time that that you just received to see Isabel Leonard, Michael Fabiano, Ryan Speedo Inexperienced, and Vanessa Vasquez have a go at it.  I positive will, and the enthusiastic standing ovation on the finish assures me that others felt the identical.

Carmen ends tragically. Photograph by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Washington Nationwide Opera.

The Fan Expertise: WNO scheduled performances of Carmen for Might 14, 15, 16, 20, 22, 25, 27, and 28.  Performances on Might 15 and 27 have Cafritz Younger Artists taking part in the most important roles.  Remaining tickets will be accessed at this hyperlink; nonetheless, the final time I checked, few have been remaining.  Parking ($25) within the indoor KC car parking zone will be reserved on-line forward of the day of the efficiency; there’s a low cost for KC members.  Entry by way of the north aspect entrances continues to be closed, however visitors flows freely to entrances on the south aspect.  Taking the Metro to Foggy Backside and catching the purple Kennedy Middle buses is an efficient mass transit choice.  Earlier than you go, test KC’s masking and vaccination necessities, which frequently pop up anytime you go to the KC web site at kennedy-center.org, but when it doesn’t, click on on the banner on the prime of the web page.

I really feel compelled so as to add this notice: if you’re an endangered partner or girlfriend, search assist.  My mom was a sufferer of home violence once I was a toddler.  Home violence stays a significant issue within the U.S. in the present day.





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