Sunday, June 13, 2010

it ain't over till the slim vamp dies

I have to say, it's rather disturbing how much opera depends on domestic violence for its story lines. But that didn't impede my enjoyment of the Repertory Opera Company's staging of Carmen yesterday afternoon, not one bit.

As I learned in the Introduction to Opera class I took as an undergrad (where I acquired my love of opera -- before that, I thought it was just goofy screeching), opera is a combination of carefully-schooled voices, fine acting, and stage spectacle. The ROC's production of Carmen lacked the stage spectacle of the Met (after all, it's community opera, directed by our own Lizbeth Lucca, not Plácido Domingo or Peter Gelb), but it made up for it with the other two components.

If you don't know Carmen, it's a pretty basic story, based on a novella by Merimée: Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy kills girl. At least this is one Pomona homicide that won't make the LAT crime map. The music is some of the most memorable in the repertoire of western opera; apparently, when Carmen debuted, people were humming the songs in the streets of Paris. I defy you to do otherwise; I'd bet dollars to donuts that the 150 or so folks at yesterday's performance are all whistling "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle," "Prés des rampartes des Seville," or good old "Tor-e-a-dor en ga-a-a-arde!"

I wouldn't want to be be mistaken for an opera critic, but I'll single out three things that really struck me: the voice of Nicolas Shelton, who played Zuniga; the acting skill of Danielle Marcelle Bond, who inhabited her role better than most grand divas I've seen at the LA Opera; and the children's chorus, who were utterly adorable (make sure you say that weeth a Franche accent). Every aspect of the production ranged from very good to fantastic, though; I'm sure other things struck other folks, and feel free to post about them in the comments.

There are two more performances left: Saturdays the 19th and 26th, at 2pm at the First Christian Church. You can buy tickets at the door, and if you show up an hour early, there is a lecture about the opera. A show at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion will run you at least a benjamin, but this is well under two jacksons -- what a deal.

Now, people, go out there and get some Culcha!

The first photo is of Maria Callas, who was probably the most famous Carmen ever (and deservedly so). The second one is of Enrico Caruso as Don José -- who, I must say, rather resembles the ROC's James Salazar, or, rather, the other way round.


Anonymous said...

Actually Callas never performed Carmen on stage but she did record it near the end of her career. It was a role that perfectly suited her declining resources and the world would have welcomed her return to the stage and the intensity, insight, and magnetism that she brought to every role. However I suspect that she could not admit to herself that her soprano roles were over and so never performed Carmen. For those who love Callas, she was the most famous Carmen that never was.

dr said...

I'm really glad to hear that it's a good production! Tricksy's music teacher is in it, and the girls would have been part of that chorus, but for their travel plans the opening weekend.

LALa said...

I suggest the amount of spectacle in a production is more a function of the budget than the director or the producer. I looked up the proposed costs on the Ring Cycle:$32 million. $5.7 million on sets and props. Even a local girl could do some serious spectacle for a few mil.

meg said...

That was what I meant, LizBeth! Not that you couldn't mount one HELL of a spectacle if you had PlacDom's or Gelb's million-dollar budgets, but that when an opera costs a jackson and a benjamin, expecting spectacle isn't fair.