Opera: “Carmen” directed by Carrie Cracknell at the Met
HNY! And bravo to director Carrie Cracknell who’s given a swift kick in the toreador pants to “Carmen” at the Met. The new production of Bizet’s classic reimagines the romance between the Spanish cigarette girl and the soldier Don Jose in ways that would’ve been unimaginable to Franco Zeffirelli.
How unimaginable? Well, for starters, instead of Seville, this modern-dress production is set in an unspecified location along the southern U.S. border. Playing the title role is the 27-year Russian mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina, who struts across the stage in form-fitting Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots. It’s no wonder men (and audiences worldwide, once she begins singing) throw themselves at her feet.
Tenor Rafael Davila, substituting for the ailing Pyotr Beczala, was appropriately forlorn as Don Jose, the poor sap who is head over heels in love with sexy Carmen. Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen plays Don Escamillio, who has been transformed from a toreador into a rodeo cowboy and who pulls up in a wicked cool convertible. Soprano Angel Blue is lovely as Micaela, the childhood sweetheart of Don Jose who warns him against the ways of the wicked Carmen.
The sets and props pay homage to General Motors rather than tradition. Besides the convertible, action in Act II takes place in the backs of a tractor trailer and three pickup trucks, all of which slide deftly across the stage. (Credit for the trucks goes to BB Props of Wayne, NJ.) Act III is set in a gas station: you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Carmen tempt Don Jose while dirty-dancing atop a gas pump. Oh, and Act IV takes place on bleachers in a rodeo arena.
Opera purists may clutch their pearls (I can’t wait for the NYT critics to weigh in) but for an exciting update to a 150-year-old classic nothing seduces like the reinvigorated “Carmen.” Ole!
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