I TRIED TO FEEL ballsy about it, like a toreador advancing into the bullring. In this case, I was fighting cultural indifference by flinging myself into a movie-theater seat at Crossgates Mall, asserting, by my presence at a Metropolitan Opera simulcast, that a small beacon of enlightenment still shone. Until I realized that Crossgates and all it stands for doesn’t give a shit provided I’m forking over cash.
|Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen|
A new production of Bizet’s Carmen is opera-world newsworthy; in this case, it also featured the debut of 25-year-old mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role, a casting gamble by conductor Daniel Barenboim that paid off brilliantly. She has a big, gorgeous voice with a rich top end, and she acted the role with passionate conviction.
Jonas Kaufmann’s Don José was a convincing contrast. His act two aria “La fleur que tu m'avais jetée” was a high point, and his final moments worked convincingly in spite of director Emma Dante’s attempt to turn it into a superfluous rape scene.
Dante came from the theater world with no opera experience but plenty of ideas about goosing the production with high-concept folderol. Barenboim reportedly put the kibosh on the some of the more outrageous of them, but she nevertheless was roundly booed by the opening-night audience, part of the La Scala fun.
The broadcast itself is a high-definition signal that looks terrific on the GE Theatre screen, with adequate sound as its complement. The video director had planned the sequences well, with a few discreet dress-rehearsal inserts dropped in, and we even got a pre-show taste of the opening-night audience pomp. Good thing we went to the early show, though; the evening’s re-broadcast went blooey at Radiotelevisione Italiana’s end, losing the last two acts to technical difficulties.
Music by Georges Bizet
Conducted by Daniel Barenboim
La Scala, Milan / Proctors Theatre, Dec. 7
– Metroland Magazine, 17 December 2009