Spanish director Calixto Bieito's provocative version of "Carmen" made its debut at San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. His violent, outrageous productions are well known all over the Europe. He is known for his radical interpretations of classic operas. Perhaps his way to prove that opera is no longer for the old (or boring). Carmen was first published as a novella by Prosper Mérimée in 1845. In 1875, Georges Bizet’s Carmen first opened at the Paris Opéra-Comique. It was deemed too risqué. Bieto's version of "Carmen" for S.F. Opera is filled with raw sexuality and vulgarity throughout the performance and makes one at times uncomfortable to watch.
Conducted brilliantly by the debuting Carlo Montanaro, an Italian conductor who kept the music alive. Impressive performance by Brian Jagde as Don José and Amina Edris (debut) as Mercédes. Great acting by Irene Roberts, yet not strong enough vocally for Carmen.
For the first time with a clear conscience I may safely say that I was watching, rather than listening to the opera "Carmen". It was an abstract presentation of the novel in which I was struck by masses of people on stage.
Its setting places us in the Seventies at the end of Franco's rule in Spain. The stage is often bare. Except for an enormous bull and rolling out of five vintage Mercedes cars used as the gypsies’ mode of transportation for Act |||.
I was particularly "interested" in the appearance of the completely nude toreador rotating at the center stage, under the dim light. I would be curios to clarify how this scene ties to Opera "Carmen"? I'd ask the same question about the scene in which Carmen publicly takes off her underwear and later put them back on. Many imitations of sex throughout the performance, not to forget a cast of approximately 30 children.
This vulgar version of Carmen is a controversial show with the participation of opera singers, which could very possibly drive a new (younger) audience to the opera.
Text: JULIET BELKIN