Opera Review by Sarah Frye, February 20, 2017
Rating 4 out of 4
The Lyric Opera presents a show stopping and exhilarating production of the ever popular production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen. A spectacle of singing, dancing, fighting and more keep the three hour show moving at a quick pace. The opera is presented in five acts in French but an English translation is presented. Having never seen Carmen before, I was surprised at how many of the songs I recognized that are now in mainstream culture.
Carmen, played magnificently by Ekaterina Gubanova, sings of love and freedom. Many suitors vie for her attention and love but Carmencita will not be swayed by their love proclamations. She brushes off the other men and sets her eyes on the seemingly uninterested soldier Don José; who has just promised to wed his hometown sweetheart Micäela. When Carmen is arrested for getting into a fight, she persuades Don José, the incomparable Joseph Calleja, to release her and meet her at Lillas Pastia’s inn. Carmen and her friends sing and dance of the gypsy life before Don José arrives. The two profess their love and Carmen attempts the corporeal to join her friends in the revolution in a performance that gave me goose bumps. When another amour of Carmen arrives, Don José fights the man who is his superior. He now has no choice but to join the revolution.
As expected, Carmen soon tires of Don José who has given up everything to be with her. He has abandoned his post and duty, former love, mother and country. And yet he refuses to leave Carmen so that she cannot be with her new love interest, the bullfighter Escamillo. When Micäela arrives to take Don José back to his dying mother; Carmen sees the perfect opportunity to get rid of him once and for all. The story continues on with fiery jealousy that ends badly for Carmen. Throughout the performance are dance numbers sprinkled throughout, including a bull fight that serves as a metaphor for Carmen and Don José. Carmen is the untamed, wild bull that eventually meets its demise at the hands of the bullfighter.
The Lyric’s production puts its own spin on the famed opera and should be seen by all. There are two special appearances by the Chicago Children’s Choir which adds a touch of delightful sentiment. During intermission I heard statements of it being the best production they’d seen and yet another audience member stated that it was too much like musical theatre. It seemed that most audience members fell into the former category as rounding applause and standing ovations closed out the performance. The production runs through March 25 with Anita Rachvelishvili and Brandon Jovanovich taking over as Carmen and Don José March 16. For tickets visit www.lyricopera.org/carmen.