Washington National Opera
at The Kennedy Center
Washington, DC

Reviewed by Verna Kerans
Runs September 19 through October 3, 2015

The opera Carmen by Georges Bizet is my favorite opera. The music is outstanding and emotionally moving. You will recognize the music as soon as you hear it. I always tell people this is good opera with which to introduce young people to the genre.

This Carmen was directed by Patrice Courier and Mashe Leiser. The voices were strong and clear. However one of the most amazing things for me were the sets. Christian Fenouillat was in charge of that and they were great--from the streets of Spain and the iron fencing of the army post to the bar where Carmen sings a fabulous aria. And finally the stands of the bullring where we could see the spectators ascend to their seats– a real departure from previous Carmens I have seen.

This is our fist introduction to Jessica Muirhead in the role of Micaela. She is in love with José and tries to persuade him to return to his home. His sick mother almost takes precedence over Carmen but he cannot leave his fascination, Carmen, played by Alessandra Volpe. The aria that Micaela sings is poignant and almost changes José’s mind. But the spell that Carmen casts over all men is powerful. Carmen and Don José (voiced by Peter Weld) are a potent pair.

The second scene takes place in the bar where Carmen has a wonderful aria. She wins over Don José in this scene because she is so manipulative and he is so crazy in love with her. He fails to heed the call to return to camp and thus becomes a deserter. [A few years ago I saw a very funny production of Carmen. At one point, the sargeant and José are fighting and Don José loses his sword and it falls into the orchestra pit. What else can the orchestra do but to return the sword to the stage so the opera can continue? I will resist telling you some of the remarks I heard.]

This is one of those stories where you hope the ending will be different. I always feel that way when I see Romeo and Juliet. A silly feeling but it remains as I watch and listen. Again, this production of Carmen was beautiful but it seemed to drag a bit. Maybe because I know it so well or maybe they could have just picked up the pace a little. Even so, if you have an opportunity to see this Carmen, do not miss the production.

The next opera is Appomattox, written by Christopher Hampton with music by Philip Glass, which is, of course, about the Civil War. It opens on November 14 and runs through November 22, 2015.

Call 202-467-4600 for tickets.

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