Friday, July 11, 2008

Carmen reviews

The Glyndebourne Carmen seems to have gone over better than I thought it would. Here are a few responses from the press:

The Independent: "This is an evening where Carmen improvises her castanet rhythms on Don José's body. If you don't believe me, start phoning for returns."

The Times: "Too often, these days, Carmens are pale, thin, complicated girls: more at home, one feels, in the Bodleian Library than a Seville fag factory. So it’s fun to find one with the hair of Shirley Bassey, the figure of Barbara Windsor, the strut of Tina Turner and the freneticism of a go-go dancer paid by the wiggle."

The Guardian: "This production, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2002 with Anne Sofie von Otter in the title role, still awaits principals who can make the most of what it has to offer."

Here's my £0.025p on the subject.

Tania Kroll as Carmen? A sizeable, jolly, smiley, girl-next-door type at first view - why do all these men go for her rather than most of the rest of the chorus? Well, she's a terrific actress - that helps. She has a good, musical, intelligent voice with fine diction - unremarkable and no way sensual enough, but she puts other aspects of the character first. She is fabulous - the best one yet in this third-time production - at putting across Carmen the Gypsy: the outsider, the free-thinker, keeping herself slightly to herself at the edge of the proceedings, going her own way no matter what. By the end, she was devastating.

Brandon Jovanovich as Don Jose? Problem: the last one I saw was Kaufmann at Covent Garden. But Jovanovich is as hefty a fellow as this Carmen needs, and comes across as a jolly dangerous bloke with one mighty whopper of a big voice. I know it's dangerous to start talking about eating hats, but this guy should probably be Siegfried. We will certainly be hearing more of him. But could someone please give him some French coaching, PDQ?

Kate Royal as Micaela? That was the one really great performance I mentioned the other day. Some of my colleagues said they found her difficult to warm to - but that's the nature of Micaela, that's why Jose gets seduced by a sexpot, because Micaela is not one. There was a sense of true terror behind her aria in the mist, and she seemed to inhabit character and voice to perfection.

Oh, and Escamillo? Forgot about him. Perhaps they wanted him to come across as a D-list fading celebrity ripe for conscription to the worst of Big Brother or that thing in the jungle, but...

The biggest surprise in the write-ups is the universally positive response to the conducting. Yes, the orchestra sounds good - it always does these days. But Deneve (who looks uncannily like a cross between James Levine and Marge Simpson) takes tempi that are often on the leisurely side and compared to the fizz that Philippe Jourdain brought the original run with von Otter, this version definitely left the best bubbles for the interval champagne. Carmen is a long evening, but if it's well done it doesn't feel it. This one did. Very.