Bizet's Carmen in Sunset Park Brooklyn
Indominatable Regina Opera Scores Again
By: Susan Hall - May 23, 2015
By Georges Bizet
Produced by Regina Opera
Conducted by Jose Alejandro Guzman
Brooklyn, New York
May 23, 2015
Photos courtesy Regina Opera
Mirroring the action as Carmen's loves and intrigues spread out before us are two dancers, Wendy Chu and Christian-Philippe Consigny. They dance to the overture and interludes and mime the famous gypsy's encounters with various men. Their overt sensuality underlines the thrust of the opera and its draw for many audiences: passion.
Carmen is passion personified. Defiant and free, no man is able to hold her interest for more than six months. Escamillo doesn't even get a chance to do this. But he is the last of her lovers. She expires before the deadline. Rather is stabbed to death.
Augusta Caso made a fascinating Carmen. She graduated from Williams and went on to earn a Masters in Music at the University of Oklahoma. Her voice has a wide, comfortable range and is lush. The dark seductiveness of our doomed heroine was captured as she sang. She also sports Gelb-It-Girl qualities: slim, pretty, acts well, moves well. Maybe he'll catch a glimpse of her. She deserves a future.
Paolo Buffagni as Don Jose has a big, verismo tenor and almost seems to speak as passion overtakes him. Nathan Matticks has a suave voice to match his Escamillo. It's easy to see why the girls swoon over this toreador.
Jessica Sandidge stood out as Michaela, particularly in the first Act. Her voice is lovely, but has a robustness we are unaccustomed to in the role (Frittoli, Caball). Sandidge satisfied in making the role more robust and less whiny.
Secondary roles were all noteworthy, especially Gene Howard as Morales and and Yoko Yamashita and Caroline Tye as gypsy support for Carmen.
The costumes were period and their textured beauty was highlighted by the simplicity of the set by Tyler Learned. Like opera companies all over the world, Regina maximizes the effectiveness of the sets with invention rather than carpentry.
A two-step riser at the back of the stage served for the town square, the bar room, the smuggler's den and the exterior of the bullfight ring. A backdrop of mountains hung for the smuggler's den, and a magnificent bull, rearing and gored centered the last scene. Of course, Don Jose, Carmen and the bull are all gored in Bizet's perfect opera.
The orchestra led by Jose Alejandro Guzman was precise and passionate. The first violinist manages the musicians. Born in St. Petersburg, Yelena Sevranskaya has known Gergiev since he was 18: "A dictator, but that's probably necessary." The musicians played together with gusto. They clearly knew the score: its sweet moments, its sass, its familiar beauty and of course, the searing passion.
Neighborhood opera played in wonderful venues invite just the audiences Regina gets: opera enthusiasts of all ages, including millenials and children. You would never know opera's death knell is being proclaimed when you come to a Regina production.