I love you, “Carmen”

  • By Jackson Holtz
  • Sunday, October 16, 2011 10:06am
  • Life

Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” is spellbinding, sexy and seductive.

The gypsy Carmen, played in Seattle Opera’sSaturday night opening performance by a marvelous Anita Rachvelishvili, is captivating the minute she appears on stage.

When her ill-fated lover, Don Jose, played by Luis Chapa, tells her he loves her, he’s speaking for the entire audience. Her pure form of human lust is overpowering, even for her. So overwhelmed by love, her fate is sealed, doled out by Tarot cards and ruthlessly taken in the final scene.

This production is clear, crisp and a delight to watch. “Carmen” is arguably the world’s most popular opera with good reason. It is balanced, accessible and fast paced, despite its nearly four-hour running time (with two intermissions).

The cast in the opening night performance delivered outstanding performances, with Rachvelishvili bowling over many others with her soaring voice. Seattle Opera veteran Michael Todd Simpson was sexy and charming as the matador. Norah Amsellem heartbreaking and tender as Micaela and Chapa held his own in his U.S. debut.

The songs are familiar and lovely. Don Jose and his childhood paramour Micaela sing soaring, romantic arias. On counterpoint, Carmen and the matador Escamillo sing rhythmic, staccato, Spanish-influenced Gypsy tunes. Carmen’s “Habanera” and Escamillo’s “Toreador Song,” are among the most recognized operatic pieces ever. They shine in the current performance.

Director Bernard Uzan takes some liberties, opening the curtain during a portending bit of the overture to give the audience a glimpse of the murderous ending. An eight-member dance troupe blends seamlessly into the cast, artfully choreographed by Peggy Hickey.

Still, the night belonged to Carmen. As Rachvelishvili took her bow Saturday, the audience hollered, “Bravo.” I love you, Carmen. You have stolen my heart.

Lucky for you, Carmen returns for six more performances through Oct. 29. For more information, go to www.seattleopera.org.

Seattle Opera’s blog post in which the plot of Carmen is played out in a Facebook exchange is hilarious.

Read more about Carmen here.

Let us know what you liked (or didn’t) about Carmen by posting a comment below.

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