Lyric Opera celebrates its beautiful production of Carmen
If you are a woman with temper, your life is never easy. It can even end tragically. However, it is better to experience all that drama and tragedy not in your real life, but watch it instead on the stage.
Carmen, an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet, gives people the opportunity to go through the flames of love, jealousy, hatred and revenge by watching the unfolding drama between the main character Carmen and two men who love her. This gypsy woman might be criticized for her immoral and vulgar behavior, but there is something that definitely makes her unforgettable – her feminine nature, openness in demonstrating her emotions, and deep belief in fate.
Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera put their mutual effort in demonstrating to the Chicago public their coproduction of this world-known opera by George Bizet. This Chicago production started February 11 and runs through March 25. It has not only attracted the attention of multicultural opera lovers from Chicago and the Chicago area, but also of those who came to see it from other states and countries.
With a libretto in French by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, this opéra-comique, which combines spoken dialogue and sung portions, has been produced numerous times all over the world with different interpretations and points of view. However, the Lyric Opera’s production is very different. Many of the audience members and opera critics who saw Carmen at other opera houses noticed that this production surprises with a great combination of enchanting dance and song that makes this fiery and tragic love story even more colorful.
The award-winning American director Rob Ashford, who earned acclaim for his production of Carmen at Houston Grand Opera, serves as director and choreographer at the Lyric Opera’s production of Carmen. He surprised the audience by adding an energetic dancer who represents a bull. The sharp and energetic moves of the bull don’t distract from the main characters but add more spice in their demonstration of love and hatred. Guernica, a mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso that brought worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War in 1930s, became a great inspiration for this interpretation.
The production is filled with talent and inspiration from around the world. In the first cast that ran from February 11 to March 6, the role of Carmen was performed by a popular Russian singer Ekaterina Gubanova, while Don José was presented by Malta native tenor Joseph Calleja. In the second cast that runs from March 16 through March 25, the role of Carmen is performed by Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, and the role of Don José is performed by a popular American tenor Brandon Jovanovich.
For Anita Rachvelishvili it is a Lyric Opera debut. Her appearance on the stage attracted audience members who came to see Carmen only because they wanted to see this great Georgian mezzo-soprano perform live. Her deep, rich and emotional vocal reflects every little nuance of the main character’s personality. Being a great actress, she projects very well Carmen’s individuality and is greeted by the audience with sincere appreciation. Carmen is one of the few operas that highlight a mezzo soprano, and Anita Rachvelishvili performs this role very well. She is considered to be one of the major Carmens of her generation and has triumphed in this role at many opera houses around the world. Lyric Opera is pleased to have Anita Rachvelishvili perform Carmen in its production and is looking forward to further collaboration.
Brandon Jovanovich, an American tenor and one of today’s most celebrated interpreters of Bizet’s Don José, is known internationally for his extraordinary and sincere portrayal of this controversial character. Don José , sometimes short-tempered and physically abusive, sometimes emotional and tender, is difficult to play, but Brandon Jovanovich demonstrates just the right representation of this man, who falls in love with Carmen and at the end kills her as he understands that he will never again possess her. Jovanovich uses his vocal and actor talent to show all the stages of Don José’s internal battle that leads to the final tragic decision.
Another character, Escamillo, who falls deep in love with Carmen, is represented by the talented and well-known American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn. His appearance at Lyric Opera’s Carmen was greeted with great enthusiasm and appreciation. It is not surprising that the famous Toreador aria performed by Christian Van Horn found an emotional response in the audience as it was performed with brilliance and great presentation.
Micaëla, another noticeable character of the opera, touched everyone’s feelings not only because of this character’s clean and sincere soul, but also by the clean and sincere vocal of Eleonora Buratto, the world known Italian soprano. This great singer has rapidly risen to the top rank internationally for her successful portrayal of Bizet’s Micaëla. Her aria in Act III was followed by grateful applause.
Needless to say, the Lyric Opera’s Carmen production became even more touching and unforgettable thanks to talented little singers from Chicago Children’s Choir. Dressed in their old fashioned costumes, young vocalists demonstrate their tremendous acting, vocal and dancing skills that were greeted by the audience with smiles and warmth. These young vocalists have a great chance to learn from the members of celebrated Lyric Opera Chorus. This great chorus once again demonstrated its well-established mastership and professionalism by adding to the opera bright and colorful notes and emotions. During this production, the proclaimed Lyric Opera Orchestra is directed by a talented Latvian conductor Ainārs Rubiķis whose popularity is rapidly growing around the world. This great conductor’s Lyric Opera debut became another step in his successful and bright career.
Lyric Opera is known as a place that adds to Chicago’s life charisma, emotion, esthetical beauty and excellence. Today, it celebrates its beautiful production of Carmen. Bringing to Chicago this opera, which is based on the 1845 novella by French writer Prosper Mérimée, Lyric Opera widens its horizons and educates its audience about this masterpiece. Bizet wrote tremendous music, but not many of us know that despite its current reputation Carmen was rejected by the earliest critics. Tchaikovsky predicted that “Carmen will be the most popular opera in the world,” but Bizet didn’t survive to hear that. Today, with its unique production, Lyric Opera is proud to surround Chicago with this beautiful music and to show a story of a simple gypsy woman who with her tremendous temper and tragic love electrifies and fires up our city.