Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Carmen electric

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Last weekend’s sellout, high-def live screening of the Metropolitan Opera’s Carmen — which will encore Feb. 3 at local Hollywood and Cinemark theaters — confirmed (at least for me) the numerous critical accolades it's so far received.

A New York Times reviewer, rightfully entranced by the 33-year-old Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca's stunning take on Bizet’s famed gypsy heroine, raved about how the production uncovers “the rawness and daring at the opera’s core.”

From the singing and acting to the set design (especially in the fourth act), the Met brings new life to the best known of opera’s “ABC” triumvirate (the other two being Aida and La Bohème).

The worldwide telecast also drew a record 240,000 viewers, which isn’t bad for an opera that was derided by audiences and critics alike at its premiere in 1875. (Bizet died weeks later, at the age of 36.)

The current production is being hailed as the Met’s first great Carmen in a quarter century. For perspective, consider what cultural critic Edward Said had to say about the company’s 1997 staging in his book Music at the Limits:

Last year’s Carmen utilized a typically overwrought Zefirelli conception merely to stuff every empty space with animals, innumerable humans and a few leading characters who were completely lost in the teeming mass.

Had Said lived to see the Met’s current production, he would surely appreciate the absence of animals (OK, there’s one bull, but it’s dead) and the presence of leads whose exemplary performances are never overshadowed.

Anyway, since that encore screening is still two weeks away, here are a couple of things to tide you over. If you haven’t yet heard Elina Garanca, you can click here

Share Aria Cantilena by Elina Garanca

to check out her Aria Cantilena album. (Note: The arrow will take you to the album’s page at, where you can stream 25 tracks without signing up.) I’d recommend going straight to the final track, her version of Strauss’ “Ist ein Traum, kann nicht wirklich sein," which features brilliant baritone and soprano contributions from Dominik Licht and Diana Damrau.

Then click below to hear Garanca and co-star Roberto Alagna discuss their roles in a recent BBC interview:

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