As I much younger opera lover I really liked Carmen. And as I (I confess) like las Corridas a las cinco de las tardes, especially. There is something in los toros, that I also find in Operas and Hockey! The excitement, the music, the individual feats of action, the unrealistic drama.......sorry, I digress!
Aging, gracefully I hope, Carmen became just another popular opera whilst appreciating the rarer gems. And so I went to HGO's Dress rehearsal of CARMEN with pleasant anticipation because several in the cast were 'old' acquaintances, singers from past operas, and studio.
And guess, what...I was captivated again by this Carmen. Ana Maria Martinez simply IS Carmen. With flair, with grace, defiance, come-hither, and repulse. She dances really well, looks ravishing, acts impressively all the while singing sultrily or scathingly. Using her astonishing voice superbly. One can readily believe all men are at her feet in adulation. Martinez is HOT!
Her Don Jose is Brandon Jovanovich and HE matches her in HOTness ;-) with a clear tenor, flexible and expressive; he, too acts very well.
Ryan McKinny is an energetic acrobatic Escamillo, his voice IMO is a bit too husky for the part. But he acquits himself with pundonor como una famosa espada ought. Natalya Romaniv's Micaela is played and sung quite prettily as it ought to be; she is, after all, goodness personified.
Of the other members in order of appearance:
Morales is Samuel Schultz, a newcomer, he does it well, in this somewhat easily overlooked, cameo, role.
Robert Gleadow returns as Zuniga and sounds suitably officerlike.
Uliana Alexyuk sings Frasquita sweetly with a clear sound,
Carolyn Sproule is Mercedes, who matches Uliana in sound.
As Dancaire, Reginald Smith, Jr., powerfully overshadows his comrade in arms, Remendado, sung by John McVeigh. I recall well McVeigh's somewhat distinct tenor from his time here, and in productions heard on the radio. Here he sounds lost beside the big voiced Smith.
What makes this production so exciting and DIFFERENT were the dancers.
On the, primarily, spare set (by David Rockwell) and unusually lit brighter than I have seen (by Donald Holder),
the solo dancer, as el toro, was Rasta Thomas. AND HE WAS EXCELLENT!
The costumes (by Julie Weiss) for the dancers outshone the others with the exception of Martinez's which seemed painted on in a most pleasing (or should that be teasing way?)
The children's chorus (directed by Karen Reeves) sing and act prettily, and the HGO Chorus, as we have come to expect, sing well as usual under the direction of Chorus Master Richard Bado.
Rob Ashford as Director and Choreographer essays several innovative ideas which makes this production better than many I have seen in the past.
HGO orchester is energetically, at times too (lol) energetically requiring the drinking of lots of water, conducted by, a very youthful, Rory Macdonald.
Looks like the whole cast and creative team is YOUNG.
And that, chers readers, gives me hope for the survival of opera into the future. Young singers, young creative teams.. and - hopefully - young audiences. All is not lost on planet Opera, methinks.