photos courtesy of Jeffrey Dunn

CARMEN by Georges Bizet, after the novella by Prosper Merimée
Conductor: Keith Lockhart
Cast: D. B. Miller, J. Bellemer, H. Alattar, D. Mobbs, D. Stokes
Production: J. Conklin (scenery), G. Berry (clothes), T. C. Hase (lighting), J. Allen (hair/make-up)

“One can’t help feeling on occasion that Georges Bizet’s Carmen is one of those popular masterpieces that may have earned a well-deserved rest. Of course, such a solution isn’t practicable…so it is to Boston Lyric Opera’s credit that the company opened its season with a bold production of Carmen that richly justified yet another staging of the work and afforded the audience just such an opportunity to rediscover one of the staples of the repertoire. Taking his cue from the original novella by Prosper Mérimée on which the opera is based, stage director Nicholas Muni shifted much of the dramatic focus to the character of Don José, a man tormented by the competing claims of duty and lawlessness, religious belief and ungovernable sexual passion. The work was reimagined visually as well. Gone were the traditional dusty Spanish squares baking beneath a glaring sun; instead, John Conklin’s sets and Gabriel Berry’s costumes reflected the dark mid-nineteenth-century status quo of which Don José was the product, evoking the traditional rule-bound society so threatened by the Gypsy otherness and perceived danger of Carmen and her clan.”
Kalen Ratzlaff, Opera News (February, 2010)

“Last night at the Shubert Theatre, BLO opened its season with a new “Carmen,’’ presented in a stripped-down, theatrically intense staging by Nicholas Muni. This production does away with spectacles like the grand Act IV parade outside the bullring in favor of focusing attention on the powder keg of a relationship at the opera’s heart. This is “Carmen,’’ in other words, meant as explosive chamber opera.
Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe (November, 2009)

“Boston Lyric Opera deserves many congratulations for their fresh and exciting take on one of the most-performed operas in history.  BLO’s rendering of Bizet’s masterpiece is entrancing from the beginning notes of the overture, conducted by Boston Pops’ Keith Lockhart. It is when the curtain is first raised, though, that the audience sees the unconventional set that portends the originality of this production. In the first act, a series of low platforms span the stage, allowing for pleasing movement and variation without any ornate distractions. The floor is covered in gravel and overhanging the entire scene is an enormous panel with the remains of a fresco of the Last Judgment from medieval Spain. The partially destroyed Christian image echoes the battle between Don José’s Christian piety and Carmen’s pagan belief in the tarot. The opera opens dramatically with Don José illuminated by side lighting, in profile and kneeling in prayer on one of the platforms. With the word “innovation” usually denoting excessive uses of technology and distracting ornamentation in opera, it is refreshing to see simple ideas in direction used so effectively. Real torches cast beautiful shadows on the back panel during Escamillo’s “midnight parade,” and the tobacco factory girls contemplate real smoke from their cigarettes as they lounge on their platforms. These small touches lend an earthy and realistic feel to the performance. At the end of this inspired production, it is clear that BLO has successfully fused the advantages of innovation with the strengths of a classic in its rendering of “Carmen.”
Emma Bushnell, The Tuft’s Daily (November, 2009)

“A welcome element of BLO’s Carmen was that it follows the composer’s intended use of dialogue. Another good aspect of this production was the choice and unity of setting and costumes. BLO’s decision to turn the opening scene of Act IV from a crowd scene with ballet into the background as Carmen readies Escamillo for his bullfight, an obvious concession to the cost of mounting such a scene, was an imaginative solution, with a very effective gossamer screen of red.”
Bettina Norton, The Boston Music Intelligencer (November, 2009)

“Due to the opera’s ubiquity, every version needs a new twist, and the BLO chose an intriguing one: this Carmen came stripped of familiar recitatives (appended by another composer, Ernest Guiraud, but by now part of the traditional score), and re-appointed with dialogue from its premiere staging at the Opéra Comique. And the BLO’s choices were no doubt all about marketing; there was, after all, little sense that this version was intended as a template for future productions. This was merely a fresh twist on a standard. But would all marketing came to such a happy end! Most purists would I think have to admit that this is the best Carmen Boston has seen in years. The singing is often sublime, particularly from Dana Beth Miller’s Carmen and Daniel Mobbs’s Escamillo, and the staging is truly intense.
Thomas Garvey, The Hub Review, (December, 2009)

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