Carmen, I have to admit, is one of my favourite operas, so any review of a performance is always going to be a bit biased. There are many reasons for this, but a few are Bizet’s wonderful music, the great lyrics and dialogue, a great story, and of course Carmen herself. Carmen is always to me one of the few really strong and independent women in a world of opera where women are so often cast in a very submissive role accepting whatever fate throws at them. Carmen is simply one of the great roles out there for singers.
The part of Carmen is performed this time round by mezzo soprano Liza Kadelnik and for some reason it seemed to take a little while for Liza to get really comfortable in this role, and I am not sure the reason why. Carmen to me is beautiful, manipulative, used to getting her own way with any man she meets, and above all full of passion at extreme ends of the spectrum – a sultry lover and a wild gypsy woman in a rage. Somehow, some of that passion seemed missing at times here. Liza’s Carmen did get much stronger as we went along though and she seemed to get more comfortable in the role.
Carmen of course has some of the greatest songs in modern opera to sing, and a song like the wonderful “La Habanera” with wonderful lines like “Love is a gypsy's child, it has never, ever, known a law” is just a great marriage of music and lyric, and Liza gives a very good performance of this classic and Carmen’s other songs.
Don Jose is played tonight by Vitalii Liskovetskiy (who played the male lead in Tosca last night), and there is no doubting his vocal abilities, but I never felt that this was a man so passionately in love with Carmen that he was losing his very reasoning over her and prepared to step into the far darker realms of jealousy and murder because of her. That is where I think part of Liza Kadelnik’s problems lay tonight; there was no passion between the two of them. For me, Carmen shone brightest when away from Don Jose.
Alyona Kistenyova (soprano) as Micaela (who played Tosca last night) was though great in this role and you could so easily believe her reserved love for Don Jose, just wishing that he would notice her properly and say something. Alyona as Micaela actually stole a bit of this show for me.
The very colourfully costumed role of Escamillo the Toreador was played here by Iurie Gisca and of course he gets the classic “Toreador Song” to sing. It is a tribute always I think to the music of Carmen that I like this music but dislike bull fighting so much (I have to switch off to the lyrics a bit on this one). Again though musically fine, but oddly lacking a bit in passion. Escamillo is a larger than life person to me and somehow seemed very ordinary at times and that spark between him and Carmen again seemed missing.
Liza and Vitalii are both very good singers and performers, but for some reason there just did not seem to be any great chemistry between the two of them on stage, and that is so needed in a work like Carmen that is so much about love turning quickly to obsessive and dangerous jealousy.
This was a bit of an odd performance for me, and the review is perhaps a bit unfairly not based on the music alone (which I cannot fault), but some unidentifiable feeling that something at times seemed missing. There were in balance highlights too. This is a very colourful, fully costumed performance that gives a huge splash of colour onstage and of course the majestic white horse Caspian.
Review by Tom King