Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kansas City Lyric Opera: Carmen

A couple of seasons ago, The Kansas City Lyric Opera managed to do what many thought impossible or at least difficult; that is to make Georges Bizet's magnum opus "Carmen" boring and laughable. Thus a new production to start this season, the last in the lovely but sadly inadequate Lyric Theatre, was met with some trepidation on my part.

For some reason, maybe it was a long, hot summer bereft of culture, Carmen was the hot ticket for its run this past week. Most nights were sold out and the start of the show was held to allow the last minute patrons to buy their tickets and find their seat.

So what did they get?

A fine Carmen for sure, but not the "best I have ever seen", "ready for the Met", hype I heard. Standing head and shoulders above all was the brilliant Carmen of Sandra Piques Eddy, a fine as acted and sung Carmen as one could ask. Her voice was alternately sweet or sultry, seductive or venomous as required. Piques Eddy vividly portrayed all of Carmen's incarnations, from a simple cigarette girl, to a gipsy on to the arrogant trophy girl of a toreador and finally victim of her own seductive powers. Her voice was dark and steamy as a Seville night but clear and with impressive French diction. It was a thrill watching her act and literally become Carmen on the stage.

Tenor Dinyar Vania portrayed hapless Don Jose, who gives up everything, including his honor, mother, the love of a sweet girl and his life for the seductive Carmen. Although Vania was in fine voice and played Don Jose with a touch of "dumb jock" swagger, he was a good but not fabulous Don Jose. He was best in the last acts as his desperation for Carmen takes all sanity from him, propelling him deeper in to his own hell.

Alyson Cambridge was a saintly, yet somewhat too small voiced Micaela. For some reason, maybe she was just too saintly and shy, her part never jelled and you never felt she really had any love or connection at all with Don Jose. Her famous and well sung Act III aria "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" seemed to come as a surprise to even her. Marcello Guzzo's Escamillo was ok, but lacked real presence or the proper arrogance of a celebrated toreador. David Lawrence Michael was more impressive as Zuniga, the lieutenant of the guards.

The sets were fine, but again all the hype I heard escaped me. This was a dark Carmen in lighting, set detail and costume. Some cost cutting was quite evident; the same sets depicting the square in Seville was used for the third act set in a "wild and deserted place". More attention to detail could have made the setting more effective. The tavern scene (with a fabulously sung Quintet) and the parade in the fourth act, were also lacking in numbers and brilliance.

Thus, far from the tragic mess of the Carmen of 2006, this well attended production redeemed itself for sure. Happily, many patrons got to see and hear, in the form of Sandra Piques Eddy one of the best acted and sung Carmens this town has ever seen.

She is certainly "best I have ever seen" and "ready for the Met".

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