Having never been to the Opera before, I’m at the disadvantage of being unable to compare Carmen to any previous experiences. The show first hit the opera stage in 1875 and has transformed every year since. As social boundaries were pushed further, directors allowed for more scandalous seduction on the part of the actresses playing Carmen, in this case Anita Rachvelishvili. As it was my first time, I wanted to put a focus on each individual feature of the show that stood out to me.

The opera is different from Broadway for many reasons, mainly the constant singing and the fact that it isn’t actually anywhere near Broadway. However, the reason I was remembering my experiences at several Broadway theaters was because of the extravagant set at the Metropolitan Opera. The massive pillars that served as reminders of Seville, Spain were beautiful in there ability to create an archaic beauty as well as supplement the strength of the military soldiers that were marching around the stage. The dull colors helped compliment the intended effect of the cigarette factory as well as the obviously tragic storyline.

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

From literally the last row of the Metropolitan Opera, it was far more difficult to visualize and appreciate the costume design of the cast, yet a pair of binoculars seemed to fix that obstacle. The costumes did their job of describing how the cast was to be seen, yet I didn’t see anything special in each individual character. I hoped to see something distinguishing Don Jose or something evoking sympathy for Micaëla. Since the story was set in much simpler times, it made sense to see Carmen’s more conservative clothing and she did a great job of bringing that seductive and scandalous attitude on her own.

I saw the acting as a roller coaster, with certain ups and certain downs (for the most part “up” though). For the most part, each individual character did a great job of evoking an emotion from the audience, whether it be sorrow, humor, or anger. However, at times the show seemed to be stretched out. It could well be that the show hasn’t adapted for a modern audience, or it is trying to bring the modern audience to understand classical opera. Yet I felt that certain scenes could be much shorter. For example, the scene where Don Jose is finally set to confront, and kill, Carmen. It could have been much more compact and allowed for the audience to feel the same emotion. By the end of the scene though, I was almost happy that it was finally over. What made it worse was the terrible death scene on behalf of Anita Rachvelishvili (Carmen). She wandered on the stage after being “stabbed” and again stretched out the scene. This is an area where many of my classmates disagree, yet I feel strongly about this.

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

I were to assess this show as a whole, I can confidently say that it altered my expectation of the opera. I came in to the show thinking I was being dragged and left appreciating an evidently lost art. I still question if the show was trying to adapt to the modern audience or trying to allow the audience to understand opera and I still can’t confidently state an answer. However, I can confidently say that I am now more accepting of these lost arts that shouldn’t have vanished in the first place.


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Such a REproduction

With the familiar Carmen Prelude, a classic production composed by George Bizet, the opera Carmen was opened at The Metropolitan Opera (the MET) in Lincoln Center. The production itself wasn’t that much different from the previous seasons with the exact costumes and setting. Although the story was vivid and the setting was impressively done, people who returned for surprises may found the piece predictable with the same story and no new elements—maybe even with a little shock on the singing.

A special note on the modern dance at the beginning of Act I and Act III—it was a phenomenal transition into the actual opera. In both acts, the dancers Maria Kowroski and Eric Otto were skillful and thus successfully brought the audience from the lousy reality into the mood of Carmen, which could be interpreted as both tragic and dramatic. With the irregular curtain opened, the red light at first foreshadowed the ending (especially when in the end red light was presented once again); the blue light signified the sharp switch in emotions between Carmen and Don José. Pairing with the lighting, two distinctive styles of dance, credited to Christopher Wheeldon, were presented. One was passionate but seemingly morose; the other was smooth but with a sense of coldness in mood. Aside from the other expected, this was actually a splendid detail that I’m glad the directors decided to maintain.

Personally, I had never been to an opera before, so this would have been a good first experience if not for the singing of Anita Rachvelishvili (Mezzo-Soprano), the supposedly beloved Carmen. Compared with Micaëla (Kate Royal, Soprano), who preformed in such a high quality, perfecting in notes hitting and emotional content, Carmen failed to impact the audience with the entrance of her character. Her voice was plain and powerless. As the typical Carmen, one’s voice should be at least energetic, not to say Carmen is such an interesting protagonist, so it is the least for one to look for the singer’s own interpretations. With such a high expectation, more disappointment kicked in when Carmen appeared on stage. Even the famous for its gypsy tune song “Habanera” couldn’t make up for Carmen’s lack of sensitivity in her act. Even though she continued to correct herself, one could tell that she wasn’t in her best condition when she gave up the attempt to hit and maintain the high notes in one of her duet songs with Don José.

Don José, on the other hand, was such a distinguishing display by Yonghoon Lee (Tenor). In the opera, the singer was in sync with his character, and delivered a strong message throughout the production. Having been as Don José for several times in his career, Lee continued, if not better, to pursue the audience with his role.

Even though lacked a little surprises, the sets and costumes were still suiting for the acts. Like the supposedly consistent music, conducted beautifully by Michele Mariotti, the sets and costumes became a tradition in Carmen, though unlike the music, it was only so in the MET.

Carmen in “Carmen” (credit to

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Carmen Strikes Back

Despite sitting in the worst seats of the Metropolitan Opera, I was still blown away by the performance of Carmen. The powerful and familiar music made its way to my ears for perhaps the hundredth time in my life. Yet, the tunes never get old and hearing them professionally played was a chance in a lifetime.

It would have been great if I had Orchestra seats but last row seating left an impression that could have been better. The acoustics of the theater are definitely unique and top notch, but whereas the strings easily made its way to my ears, the bass and percussion were not able to do the same. It was as if the oomph in the music only made it past the first balcony. However, the cleanliness of the sound was remarkable and any mistakes made were not apparent. The only problem I noticed took place in one instance in the beginning when the music and the vocals were off. It only happened in that one instant so it was not an apparent problem throughout the remainder of the play.

The vocals throughout the play were superb. Yonghoon Lee’s Don Jose was portrayed strongly with vigor in his voice. His voice dominated the rest of the cast as expected since he was the male lead. Playing the role of Carmen was Anita Rachvelishvili. Her voice was robust, but at times Kate Royal’s sweet graceful voice as Micaela truly drew contrast between the nature of the two characters. Sometimes it felt as if Micaela was the star of the show instead of the promiscuous Carmen. Regardless, each of the performers showed great passion in their voices.

Although the leads left a great performance, that is not to say the rest of the supporting cast was not great as well. The children’s roles was particularly interesting in that their addition to the mixture of the voices in the beginning created the atmosphere of chaos and confusion in the factory.

The costumes were amazingly done. This was the case many of the character in the play. The best example of this can be found with the matadors’ costumes which had intricate designs on them. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the entire Opera was the set. A rotating stage was incorporated to help create a surprisingly different settings. With the help of a few turns and removing a few rails while in combination of certain lightning effects, the mood was drastically changed. The curtain was also very elaborate in the way that it opened. It created a design that like a lightning bolt.

Although I heard complaints on my way out about the ending, I thought the ending was completely appropriate and powerful. Some people have to understand that this is live theater and that this is a play that has been performed for decades. In the end, murder is still murder and it is not necessary to show a brutal killing. As Carmen lay dead on stage, the lighting turning red, left a powerful popping image that I carried home that night. Both the orchestra and cast performed a on par if not above par performance of the classic Carmen.

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Fluctuation of Carmen

A red lightning bolt strikes right down the center of the stage, as if it were splitting the stage in half. The setting of the rest of the opera is set up with a rotating center stage and realistic backdrops, which changed up between the scenes, from the cigarette factory to the small inn. The rotating stage and backdrops helped create smoother and more effective transitions. The lighting also played a huge part, assisting the music to set the mood of each and every act and scene.

The music begins and quickly captivates the attention of the audience without beginning the first act. The orchestra plays a suspenseful piece while the curtain rises to reveal the rest of the stage, when two dancers, a shirtless man and a fierce young woman, move swiftly and passionately across the stage. Their movements give the audience a slight sense of the explicit emotions that lie between the relationship of the two leading characters, Carmen and Don Jose.

As the two dancers glide back stage, the first plot rolls into action in front of an old cigarette factory. Micaela, played by Kate Royal, innocently asks the soldiers for Don Jose, played by Yonghoon Lee, in her harmonious soprano pitch. The soldiers are all infatuated, asking Micaela to stay with them in their booming voices. The voices of some characters are crisp and clear, even to those in the last row of the theater. Unexpectedly, the female lead did not reach the same expectations as the other characters. Carmen, played by Anita Rachvelishvili, was equally as passionate but her voice seemed to fall short and tremble at times. This did not complement her costume and hair, which suggested her to be the seductive and promiscuous character. Her physical attractiveness did not seem to reach that of Carmen’s – Royal may have been more suited for this role.

Image found on Google

The children of the factory who scrambled on stage did well on their part. Even though there were probably thirty or more of them on stage, with a range of different ages, their performance still impressed the audience. Their movements and voices were unified.

The beginning of the play started off strong and lively; the audience was on the edge of their seats to see how Don Jose would react to Carmen seducing him. The physical infatuation was readily apparent between the two characters. As the second act began, the crowd seemed to lose interest and began shuffling around in their seats. The performance began to lack the enthusiasm that it started off with and seemed to leave the audience hanging with the anticipation the first act had built up. However, the opera seemed to pick itself back up to some extent. It appeared as if Don Jose had planned to kill Carmen, even though it was intended to have shown him killing her out of anger and frustration. Nevertheless, the red lights that turned on, with Carmen’s body laying on stage, left the audience with quite an unforgettable image.

Image found on Google

This performance of the opera was not its fullest potential. The backdrop and rotating stage was very helpful; the costumes and makeup on the characters were very suitable for the plot; however, the singing is only on par but has a lot of potential. The opera started off strong but began to fluctuate and ended off on a note that was disappointing in the end.

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The Roller Coaster Performance of Carmen

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (better known as the MET), has brought about some striking changes for the 2012-2013 opera season.  According to the October 2012 edition of the playbill, he plans to find a balance of productions that will appeal to audiences of all kinds.  For the last few years, the Met has featured Carmen, a famous 19th century George Bizet opera.  With his new changes comes a change in casting, as Gelb has given Anita Rachvelishvili the responsibility of playing the beautiful, seductive Carmen.

Anita Rachvelishvili gives an impression of power and strength when she first appears in the cigarette factory in Seville.  Her mezzo-soprano vocal range allows her to hit her notes well and convinces the audience of the true fire within Carmen.  Her superb acting is reflected when she flirtatiously stabs Don Jose with the rose.  But as the night progressed, Carmen’s performance becomes rather lackluster.  Her voice begins to fade with time, and it almost takes away from her excellent acting ability.

Contrary to Carmen, Micaela, a peasant girl played by Kate Royal, seems to outshine the star later on in the production.  During Act 3, Micaela’s singing echoes gracefully throughout the opera house when she tries to convince Don Jose to return home with her.  Her counterpart, Don Jose, may well have been the premier performer of the evening.  Younghoon Lee played the role of the young corporal within the army.  His powerful voice effectively shows his passion, especially when he quarrels with Carmen in Act 3.

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Perhaps one of the more impressing sights of the opera was the rotating set.  As Act 1 opens, Micaela comes searching for Don Jose at his army base.  During the same act, the set completely morphs into a cigarette factory with the floor and building automatically rotating.  This revolving stage keeps the audience’s attention, and allows them to easily transition from one scene to the next.  Of course the scenery of the opera would not have been complete without the entrancing costumes.

Carmen, a young, seductive, Spanish factory worker wears an intricate black dress that has floral black and white sleeves.  Her bold wardrobe assures the audience that Carmen is not your stereotypical woman working at the factory.  Don Jose, along with the rest of the military men, wore detailed green uniforms that very much resemble the uniforms of soldiers during the 19th century.  The children working in the factory had the simplest and possibly the best outfits of the evening.  Their ripped-up, raggedy shirts and gowns effectively reflected the strenuous conditions of working in the factory.

The Orchestra does a magnificent job during the evening, remaining completely in unison for the entire three and a half hours.  My only main criticism of the evening was during the final act of Carmen.  The entire opera was building up suspense for the death of Carmen, and the acting and music did not do her slaughter justice.  The acting was cheesy, the orchestra was nonexistent, and the use of lighting was ineffective.  It seemed as though what started off to be a classic performance came spiraling down with the final moments of the evening.

Photo Credit: Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera


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I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Even before the curtains open you know you have. But this is where it comes from? Well all right then; maybe the opera isn’t as foreign as you once thought. The opening scene starts with familiar music that comforts the wary first-time opera-goer. The ‘Habanera’ has been injected in pop-culture even if you didn’t know its origins. It is interesting and the orchestra is top notch at delivering the music to the Metropolitan Opera, even to the ‘nosebleeds’ where I was so fortunate to be seated. Another song that I am sure you are aware of is the ‘Toreador,’ you’ll know if you hear it.

Back to the opening scene. The stage is just all red. Redness and then a crack up the center of the curtain slowly breaks open more and more. Then you see a couple of people, one man and one woman, moving and it becomes clear. The redness, the two bodies, their formal ballet movements. It’s passion, and plenty of it. And that theme doesn’t die down; throughout the whole show there is a heavy degree of passion emitted from the stage. Even though it may be past your bedtime, there’s no nodding off. There is laughing, singing, yelling, crying, dying, and it all comes delivered in a fresh French package. Yes, the opera is in French so it would be a plus if you can speak Carmen and Don Jose’s tongue, but not to worry if you don’t. On the back of the headrest of the seat in front of you is a small screen that gives off subtitles in English, Spanish, or German. Leave it to the ‘Met’ to provide such a service, one that’s much appreciated by the way.

Courtesy of the Met

There’s more to appreciate than just the subtitles on the headrests though, how about the opera itself? Wait though, I’m getting ahead of myself, I just want to talk about the stage a bit first. If you want to see a set transform and view it from different angles then Carmen is the show to see. It is ingenious the way the stage moves. The scene changes location right before you.

Though the second scene is where the real magic begins. It is also where we first see the revolving set, with its multiple layers slowly spinning around the stage. There are many intricacies of the stage that are even overlooked. Like the massively jagged edges of the main set that looks like a stadium. It makes it look real as an opera can get. There is also a trap door, which is located smack in the center of the stage that many women pour out of, because apparently a revolving set isn’t good enough for the Met. There are no cutting corners here; even with the actors they did not cut corners.

Speaking of which, the acting was phenomenal for the opera, which was written a while ago so many modifications arose. There was passion (there’s that word again) in the movements of the actors especially. Especially in the ending scene where… (alright I won’t ruin it for you) but, there is loads upon loads of passion in the end scene. Carmen herself is full of raw passion that is not exhibited by the other actresses, mainly because Carmen is the only one that is really supposed to be, which exemplifies her as the main character. She is also distinguished by the loud colors that she drapes herself with. Don Jose seems like just a mess, which fits absolutely perfect with the character he plays. It seems like Carmen is in control the majority of the time, which also fits very well into the storyline of the play.

Courtesy of: Comstock Images, Alamy

The story is great and it shows how the value of some things does not diminish with time. Do the math, Carmen has been playing for years and the seats are still packed. That’s got to mean something.

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Carmen: The Highs and Lows

A vibrant and energetic orchestra playing familiar Bizet compositions carries the audience through the roller coaster ride that was Carmen at the famous Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The stage is set in 19th century Seville, and starts off outside a cigarette factory in which a slender woman named Micaela seeks her love, Don Jose. She is shown to be wearing a plain dress, painting an image of innocence. She was one of the standout performers of the night. Katie Royal (soprano) provided a much needed balance between singing quality, emotion, and dancing ability. Royal was able to maintain her voice and fully convey her emotions through body language at the same time. Whether she was trying to wrestle herself away from an overly touchy army officer or having a moment of intimacy with Don Jose (Yonghoon Lee), the audience knew exactly how she was feeling, and the language barrier became unimportant.

Another bright spot was the formidable tenor Yonghoon Lee. His booming, yet smooth voice rang through the hall, and boy did the audience respond with some well-deserved applause near the end. Mr. Lee was the ideal Don Jose. His demeanor was one of strength when it had to be, but he was effortlessly able to transfer into the body and mindset of a lover, desperate for reciprocation from Carmen. A prime example of this was the last portion in which he kills Carmen. He is able to regress from bitter disappointment to hopelessness in a matter of seconds, all noticeable from his body language. He kneels, and his head hangs loose, devoid of any self-control. At the end of this opera, the audience was able to feel the same anguish that Don Jose was feeling, which is an essential task to any performer. The fact that the audience was able to relate to his emotions was a great addition to the successful performance of Yonghoon Lee.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, playing the title role. While there is not much to complain about, she did not provide the same “oomph” and enthusiasm as Lee and Royal.  There come certain points in every performance where someone’s voice may waver, or come out louder than expected. In addition to some expected vocal issues, however, this portrayal of Carmen seemed a little too wild and powerful, not providing enough of the elegance and soft beauty that is expected from the role. An audience expects anyone portraying Carmen to have two sides: one wild and one soft and loving. While there were certain instances in which she seemed full of loving emotion, rage and clever antics were the staple characteristics of this specific performance.

The ups and downs of individuals did not take away from the grandeur of it all. The curtains open, revealing a glowing red light and passionate ballet dance follows. This occasional interjection of ballet is an insight to the sentiments being felt by Carmen and Don Jose. The performance started with a passionate ballet dance, and ended with the dead bull symbolizing the end of Carmen’s life at the end of Don Jose. The bull provided perspective, and placed the life of Carmen parallel to that of a bull. She was pulled in many different directions, primarily between her love interests Don Jose and Escamillo (baritone Tahu Rhodes).

Choreographer Chris Wheeldon does an exceptional job of utilizing the entire rotating edifice that is the cigarette factory. With kids weaving in and out of small corridors and good spacing, the depth of the stage was used very well.

Richard Eyre’s vision of Carmen was one of passion and symbolism. He was able to keep to the original meaning and maintain the original integrity of the play while adding small variations that added to the overall experience.

Before the Performance Began

 Credit: Navtej S. Ahuja

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A Magnificent Setup for a Lamentable End

The stage and orchestra were filled with talents for Georges Bizet’s famous opera, Carmen, in the Metropolitan Opera. Immediately the orchestra played a familiar melody from Habanera, drawing the audience into the play even before the actual performance began. The music was dynamic, eloquent and powerful, preparing us to witness the best of the best. If that wasn’t enough, a well-choreographed modern, sensually seductive dance (duet) interpreting the central theme of Carmen introduced us to the supposed masterpiece.

The Metropolitan Opera stage seemed like a castle as it rotated to the stage of Act I in Carmen. It was amazing to see how easily and efficiently the stage could transform in front of the audience. Not only the stage, the performers’ costumes were wonderfully designed, making them appeared as if they were really cigarette workers and officers back in the mid-19th century in Seville, France. The women wore dirty light clothes of grey and brown colors that looked similar to rags; the male workers wore jean overalls and a tainted t-shirt inside; the officers had fresh green uniforms and boots on, giving off a sense of high status and power in the cigarette factory; and finally Carmen, she had a flashy polka-dotted dress that was tied on the upper part. The dress was purple and obviously unique compared to the other cigarette girls. She stood out, but her costume was not glamorous either. The dress was also suitably dirty like the other cigarette girls, just more colorful.

Anita Rachevelishvili as Carmen. Photo credits to Marty Sohl from The Metropolitan Opera.

The costumes for Carmen certainly were appealing and fitting, but what would an opera be without singing? The first great solo was of course sung by the mezzo-soprano singer, Anita Rachevelishvili, who performed the flirtatious gypsy Carmen. She was magnificent in Act I, singing with emotions and seductiveness that dazzled the audience. After over two hours of singing, her voice seemed to have lost its vitality by Act IV. Rachevelishvili’s acting and role play was still top notched; however, her voice did not match up. It was weaker and much less pronounced than she was in Act I and II. In contrast, the softer and sweeter character Micaela, played by the soprano singer Kate Royal, performed her arias and acting splendidly throughout. Royal sang with a voiced that sounded natural to the situation she was in; her voice was shaken and scared when she was surrounded by the officers in Act I and jubilant in Act III in her sweet duet with Don Jose, played by the Korean tenor singer Yonghoon Lee. But the most prominent singer was certainly Don Jose. Lee did not lose grip of his vocals from the beginning to end. His duet Parle-Moi De Ma Mère with Royal in Act I was heartfelt; in the final moments of Act IV, the audience could feel the anguish and despair from his booming and powerful voice in the duet, “C’est toi? C’est moi!” The contrast from the vitality of Lee’s singing to the exhaustion in Rachevelishvili’s was too evident.

We went in to a spectacle but went out feeling almost defeated. The way Act IV’s ending was executed was major disappointment; it could even be called anti-climactic. The tensions were set from the beginning when Jose was imprisoned for aiding Carmen’s escape, which eventually led to Jose’s fall from grace as he ended up with a group of thieves but not with Carmen’s love. At this point in Act IV where Jose’s anger and jealousy was about to explode, the audience would be expecting an extraordinary modern interpretation of the famous scene–Carmen’s death. Our expectations, however, were returned with an insipid and tensionless scene as Carmen was stabbed to death by Don Jose. It might seem dramatic for Carmen to state “Kill me or let me go” without singing in an opera (it was the first time a line was not sang but simply spoken). But what happened to the climax? A bland declaration stated like that without the aesthetics of opera singing was like hitting a wall before leaving the climatic highway.

Don Jose (Yonghoon Lee) threatening the exhausted Carmen (Anita Rachevelishvili) with a knife. Photo credits to Ken Howard from The Metropolitan Opera.

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Struggle for Power

The décor of The Metropolitan Opera sets a grand atmosphere for the opera it is presenting. From the size to the quality of acoustics in the theater, it is able to give the audience an authentic experience. Recently, they presented “Carmen,” a classic opera created by Georges Bizet in 1800s. When the opera was adapted, the directors emphasized a struggle between powers through the smooth, yet dramatic dance moves, and high-pitched yet powerful arias. Combined with the intricate details of the theater, the performance had the audience clinging onto every emotion and word, even though it was performed in French.

Met Opera House; credits to

Before each act, two ballerinas, Maria Kowroski and Eric Otto, are dancing in front of a red backdrop. Performed before Acts I and III, the intimate dance moves are setting the mood for the respective acts. The red background also serves as a tool to draw in the audience’s attention.

When Act I began, it became apparent who was the lead even if the viewer did not know the storyline. The voices of Carmen and Don Jose, sung by Anita Rachvelishvili and Yonghoon Lee, respectively, dominated others. When other soldiers were pursuing Carmen, their voices were noticeably softer and weaker than Carmen’s. The director seemed to have used the strength and weaknesses of the casts’ voices to underscore the plot and the overall dramatic effect. That is to say, those who could not win Carmen’s heart had weaker voices than Don Jose, whose voice rung in the theater and overpowered Carmen’s.

Carmen; credits to

Throughout the opera, the director constantly used this technique to depict the stronger character. Another instance was when Micaela, played by Kate Royal, wanted to take Don Jose away from the world of gypsies. A soprano, Micaela sang her aria with a sweet, high-pitched voice; this is paralleled to her thoughtful and loyal personality. On the other hand, Carmen, a weaker mezzo-soprano by Act III, still sounds fierce and more prominent.

Although the technique was useful in emphasizing the overall dramatic effect of the opera, the ending did not have the same positive effect. Though Carmen’s death was dramatic, it was also abrupt. It was almost as if someone had ended a song in the middle of an important verse. Yet again, the grandeur of the Metropolitan Opera may have set the standards too high, making this opera’s ending seem a lot weaker than it really is.

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Theater Without Theatricality

As the lights in the theater dim, the audience’s eyes are drawn up to witness the extravagant crystal chandeliers rising in the air. The orchestra, with vigor and excitement, commences playing a well-known tune. In anticipation of a storyline as famous as the prelude itself, the audience expects to see characters that fully embody the tragic romance of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

Unfortunately, not all of the actors at the Metropolitan Opera were able to meet the grandiose tower of expectations that stands over every rendition of this timeless classic.

As the curtain opens to the first act, the skeleton of an old cigarette factory rotates into view. Through the fence that stands before the lofty factory walls enters Micaela (played by Kate Royal). She asks the Spanish soldiers about Don Jose and the men lustfully encroach upon her.  With a strong and commanding voice, the officer Morales (played by Trever Scheunemann) pleads for her to stay with them. As he extends his arms to caress her waist, Micaela continues to superficially sing her part without any indication of fear. Where her acting lacks believability, Royal makes up for it with her astounding soprano voice. Especially magical is the moment when Micaela and Don Jose (played by Yonghoon Lee) sing a duet about Don’s mother and village. With romantic yet subtle gestures, the pair sings in a manner that is incredibly sweet and heartwarming. Answering after each of Michaela’s dynamic and perfectly enunciated phrases, Don Jose uses his highly controlled voice to sing of his love for his home. The two coo like enamored doves and complete the scene with a gentle kiss.

Done Jose and Michaela.
Image provided by

Yonghoon Lee’s performance is characterized by powerful vocals and a commitment to his role, a combination that sets the bar high for the entire cast – including Anita Rachvelishvilli herself. The actress’ physical appearance coincides perfectly with that of her gypsy character Carmen. With her thick black curls swaying in the air and her dress tightly hugging her luscious figure, Carmen illustriously emerges from the opening in the stage. Though her presence initially demands overwhelming attention from both the surrounding characters and her audience, shortly her fellow actors are the only ones to remain entranced by her overly subtle movements. Playfully flinging water at the crazed soldiers and then gently caressing the surprised Don Jose, she seems more like a happy child than a seductive and authoritative woman. It seems as though Rachvelishvilli relies more on her appearance rather than her acting ability to create a believable character. It is these nuances that prevent the overall performance from reaching perfection. Carmen’s voice, contradicting her behavior, is grand and memorable, resonating within the theater.

Image provided by

Though initially astounding, Carmen’s voice loses its magnitude during the course of the opera. During the middle of the second act, the heroin sings before the handsome bullfighter Escamillo (played by Kyle Ketelsen). Her voice wavers slightly and then gains volume and temerity with alarming speed, a change that extracts an immediate reaction from the smitten man. He proclaims his love to her, as it seems, because of her vocal improvement.

Like Carmen, the audience has reason to fall in and out of love with the production. With characters that are not as theatrical as one might expect, an emotional contagion seems to be missing. Still, Carmen continues to be a magnificent opera with its astounding acoustic qualities and dramatic storyline.


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Passionate & Emotionally Diverse

Georges Bizet’s Carmen gave its audience a night full of intense drama and emotion. The play opened with the backdrop almost “tearing”; a red light spilling onto the stage. A shirtless, chiseled male appeared with a sultry young woman, and the two danced provocatively on stage. Their movements suggested a strong passionate relationship foreshadowing the future relationship of Carmen and Don Jose.

The opera’s actual plot began with the appearance of the timid Micaela resisting the unrestrained soldiers. The soldiers, having been confined with their own gender for so long, wanted Micaela to stay for some “fun”. The audience automatically sympathized with the young Micaela, and we all hoped for her safe escape. Here was the origin of the strong emotions exuded by the characters and the scenes.

Micaela’s exit transitions into a grand display of the “changing of the guard”. Here a dramatic, powerful tone resonates between the children and the soldiers. The children’s high-pitched voices blended with the soldier’s deep voices very well. The grand scene was one of the best of the night. The choreography was very well done and executed without any obvious mistakes.

Carmen appears in the middle of the “cigarette girls scene”. She makes an ostentatious appearance among the girls. Anita Rachvelishvili, the actress who played Carmen, appeared very flirtatious, and moved seductively around stopping at different men gathered around the cigarette girls. It was obvious she was not popular with the other cigarette girls. Her voice was good, but not excellent. She seemed to be overpowered by Micaela’s vocals in her earlier appearance. The romantic, sweet voices of the cigarette girls were contrasted with Carmen’s sultry voice and movements.

Carmen’s flower that she seemed to point at different men seemed to symbolize her latest love interest. Its scent was said to overpower even the most faithful man, and her “stabbing of Don Jose, seemed ominous and foreshadowing. The episode ended with the innocent Micaela entering and embracing Don Jose. Micaela’s innocence is juxtaposed with Carmen’s forwardness throughout the opera.

The elements of folk dance were particularly clear in the “Seguidilla”. The twirling of skirts and stomping of their boots created a spectacle of carefreeness that seemed to permeate the gypsy camp. The men flipped and spun the girls and the children imitated the toreador in a bullfight. The passionate impersonation of the bullfight mirrored Carmen and Don Jose’s relationship. As the bull, Carmen too is slain.

The destruction of Don Jose by Carmen takes place both emotionally and physically. He seems intensely weakened by her power, until he kills that which destroyed him, Carmen. Beethoven’s Fate Motif can be heard in the background as all of this takes place. As Don Jose takes off his military jacket to join the gypsy troupe, it symbolized his abandonment of duty and fidelity to Micaela. It is here that Don Jose is permanently changed. It is the point of no return.

The Opera’s music was excellent. The orchestra was brilliant, and their control of their sound level was exceptional. The music directly correlated with the scenes’ tones. The drawn out music during the times of mourning and the faster, lighter music mirrored both the scenes of despondency and frivolity.

The grand scenes in conjunction with the more intimate emotional episodes created a robust array of emotions for the opera’s audience.

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Carmen: Story of Don Jose

Carmen is a beloved opera known worldwide for its music, its singing, and plot.


The most recent rendition featured Anita Rachvelishvili as the new Carmen.  Her singing was spot on.  From her mezzo-soprano voice, one can tell that she was someone with the ability of persuasion.


But Anita didn’t have the physical attractiveness of Carmen.  We have the perception of Carmen as a sexy and promiscuous young female.  Maybe that is society’s fault for setting these standards and also it is very rare for thin girls to be opera singers.



Starring as Don Jose was Yonghoon Lee.  Some have called Carmen a tragedy, not because of Carmen’s fate, but because of Don Jose’s fall from grace.  In the beginning of the opera, Don Jose is a successful military corporal with Micaela (Kate Royal) as his fiancé.  As Carmen starts seducing him, Don Jose begins to tumble.  Don Jose always had agency.  He had the freedom to act on his own will.  At times, Don Jose could’ve left Carmen and went back to his mom and fiancé.  Instead, he decided on his free will to stay.  Carmen’s seducing did play a role, but it was up to him to make a decision.


When the audience first meets Micaela, she is presented as the “good girl”.  She goes to church, she visits her fiancé’s mom, and is innocent.  This is complete opposite to Carmen who uses fortune cards, gets into fights, and is sinful.  This  “good girl” reveals her power in Act III.  She was the only reason Don Jose decided to turn back and go him to his mother.  It is true that her and Carmen are complete opposites.  Carmen is now repelling Don Jose, while Micaela is attracting to Don Jose.


In this production, the props themselves represented something greater.  The first was during the climax. When Don Jose decides to join Carmen, he takes off his military jacket to put on a different jacket that resembles that of a smuggler.  The jacket is used to portray the identity of a person.  When Don Jose took off his military jacket, he finally renounced his past.  Before that, he was attracted to Carmen, but had agency.  Now, with a new jacket, Don Jose is a new person who has given into his impulses and there is no turning back for him.



Another symbol were the lights themselves.  Before every two acts, a dance ballet is performed.  In the first one, a ballet is performed under red light.  The color red has a connotation with love, blood, and passion.  This was apparent with the first two acts where Carmen starts seducing Don Jose and Don Jose proclaiming his love toward Carmen.  Before Act III, instead of the red light, there was a blue light.  The color blue represents that of cooling, sadness, and calmness.  This was shown in the last two acts where Carmen rejects Don Jose’s love.


The music was amazing.  The orchestra did an amazing job to make the audience to feel that they were in Seville, Spain.  There were no synchronization errors, but I believe that it was wrong for the music to stop playing before Carmen dies. With no music, the death seemed melodramatic.  The music would’ve complemented the death scene by making it something that the entire audience has been waiting to see.

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Carmen: A Bull That is Yet to Be Tamed

In Spain, the men try to tame bulls. In New York’s Metropolitan Opera, they try to tame Carmen.

Built upon the fervent, feisty, cunning title character, Carmen is a three-hour-long opera that dives headfirst into the profound struggle between love and jealousy; manipulation and destiny. The Met’s revival of Georges Bizet’s 1875 production marks the merging of opera and theater, with the hefty, Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili as its centerpiece.

She makes her loud debut in Act I, when she first appears strutting out of a cigarette factory in Seville, Spain. Against the other factory girls—all thin and dainty and clad in mute earthy pastels—Ms. Rachvelishvili produces a sultry voice that flutters gracefully between the highs and lows, although far from clean and proper. It provides quite a contrast against the tender, pallid voice of Kate Royal, who plays Micaela, a peasant girl.

The environment captivates the audience as much as Rachvelishvili’s stage presence does. The walls, a glowing cerulean blue, and a circular arrangement of weathered arches gives the set a Mediterranean palette, which is an excellent visual supplement to the libretto, which is sung in French. The costumes of the soldiers (which, by the way marched in perfect unison in the beginning of Act 1), the townspeople and the buoyant crowd of children was a cluster of olive, khaki, and pale pastels. Although some blend in with the weathered arches, it allows for the eye to easily spot Carmen, even for someone sitting in the very last row of the house. In addition, the set opens and closes with a translucent red lightning bolt on a black background—a classy trademark.

One of the most powerful scenes in the performance unfolds when Carmen throws a rose at Don Jose (Yonghoon Lee), a corporal and Micaela’s beau. It serves as a foreshadowing of a strong theme: love kills. The drama heightens as Carmen’s voice is infiltrated with power and dignity, as she dominates Don Jose in this scene. Conductor Michele Mariotti coordinated a symphony that brought a trance to the swaying, almost hypnotized movements of the men surrounding Carmen.

Act II was anything but bland; here we are introduced to Escamillo the bullfighter. Kyle Ketelsen is poised and plays the part of Escamillo with duende; his voice takes on a rich, deeply vibrant texture, especially in Act II when he flirts with Carmen. His wiry bone structure paired with Carmen’s full-figure makes for an interesting dialogue in the chemistry of their body languages. Carmen reaches yet another high point when she performs the gypsy dance. Clad in a beautiful, Spanish bohemian-style skirt, she and other gypsies light up the stage with a sultry unified suave in their step. Although Carmen is the dominant figure in most of the first two acts, Don Jose rises up with an assertive, masculine resonance in his baritone voice; we see Carmen conveying intimidation as her voice settles down to a passive, yet rich alto. For a moment, the audience is swept away by the subtle fragility in Don Jose’s tone as he attempts to prove his love for Carmen, and again when he first discovers that his mother is dying.

Act IV, the last and shortest act is one that suggests a powerful metaphor: the bull. Although the set could have been represented more clearly as a bullfighting arena, it was nonetheless bustling with the collective energy of the actors. In this act, we see the steepest change in Don Jose, as his character goes from collected to passionate to desperate. The drama reaches its peak when Carmen’s foretold fate begins to unfold: her voice is shrill, movements striking and tense (appropriately) as she finally proves to Don Jose that she no longer loves him. The final scene, after a chilling (but not melodramatic) death scene, is a striking revelation of a fallen, powerful symbol. The stage is drenched in brilliant red lightthis scene, and then the curtain closes, leaving the audience with a gruesome image of jealousy.

“Carmen” runs through March 1 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center; (212) 362-6000,


Metropolitan Opera’s Carmen

What seems to be a lightning bolt of glowing red light in the curtains sets the stage for a powerful opera ahead. A familiar dynamic orchestral piece preludes Metropolitan Opera’s version of Georges Bizet’s renowned Carmen. The curtains finally open up to show a pair of dancers embracing each other in their every step, conveying love, lust, and passion. Their dance sets off the mood of intimacy and seductiveness. Curtains closed and opened once more to show a cylindrical frame of a cigarette factory slowly rotating on the stage.

The story begins with sweet-voiced Michaela, played by Kate Royal, coming through the high fences lining the factory walls looking for her lover, Don Jose, played by Yonghoon Lee. Officer Morales, played by Trever Scheunemann, and the other Spanish soldiers who sing to balance Morales’ powerful and demanding voice, beseeched Michaela to stay for a while, for they will keep her company. When Michaela comes back to Don Jose, the two make a beautiful duet in both singing and acting, for they were able to convey their love and passion for each other physically and with complimentary vocals.

All the soldiers chant in unison and wonder on the whereabouts of the protagonist, Carmen, played by Anita Rachvelishvili, who enters the stage last from the factory, through the hole in the platform. Her flirtatious clothing stands out from that of all the other factory women. Her acting and voice is strongest in this act where she plays her role of a promiscuous Gypsy by flirting with every soldier as she sings the famous aria, Habanera, finally alluring Don Jose by smashing a rose into his chest and laughing it off. However, as the opera went on, it is evident Carmen became tired and slightly lost the vigor in her voice.

Yonghoon Lee, playing as Don Jose, did an amazing job throughout, having to convey his conflicted feelings of love, weighing between his hometown sweetheart, and this lustrous new girl. He abandons Michaela, goes against the will of his mother, drops his military duties, and becomes convinced he’s in love with Carmen to free her from jail landing him in prison. The violent intensity in his voice and his enthusiastic acting becomes difficult to compare with the voice of the glorious matador, Escamillo, played by Kyle Ketelson. Kyle Ketelson nails the infamous aria, Les Toreadors (Votre Toast) with the orchestra playing perfectly in the background.

The lights also played an enormous role in the advancement of the plot. As suspense slowly peaked with the orchestra’s aid to the opera’s climax, where Don Jose stabs Carmen in a rage of jealousy, the lights were the color of a daunting red, like blood, and the music came to a complete silence. The arena walls rotated to end the opera with a juxtaposition of Carmen’s death and the Escamillo’s victorious kill of the bull.

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Almost a Classic

The Metropolitan Opera’s interpretation of Bizet’s “Carmen” sets the tone of lust and passion from the very beginning. The play opens with an intimate dance scene between a couple, with a dim red light and seductive movements. Their faces cannot be seen, so the viewer focuses on the movements of the eye-capturing dance and the outline of the dancer’s bodies as they perform their smooth choreography.

Photo Credits to Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

However, as act one begins, the acting is not believable and the opera loses that tone. When coming out of work, the cigarette girls merely sit there, and the soldiers stand and appear to talk amongst themselves. They do not act interested in each other and fail to carry on that passionate atmosphere that the opening dance scene created. But Carmen, played by mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili brings the act back to life. She sings her aria (Habanera) well, hitting all the notes with a colorful tone. She entices the soldiers, flashing her legs and moving her dress around, but still was not as flirtatious as expected from a Carmen.

Even with Rachvelishvili’s minimal flirting, she still mesmerizes Don Jose, played by tenor Yonghoon Lee, and convinces him to set her free after her arrest in the end of the first act. For the rest of the play, he is crazed and Lee’s acting matches this perfectly through his movements and emotion. In the second act, Lee’s singing (La fleur que tu m’avais jetee) outshines Carmen’s aria from the first act. He hits all notes and stays strong throughout the opera, while Carmen seems to fall off slightly at the end from a long performance. Even Micaela’s (played by soprano Kate Royal) singing of Je dis que rien outdoes Carmen’s singing. Micaela’s voice carried better and had a softer color, fitting the aria perfectly. It was however a challenge trying to follow the words of a song and the acting. Looking from translation to the far away stage made it difficult to follow the opera. Not being able to see facial expressions also took away from the acting and emotion.

Photo Credits to Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The set of the opera throughout all four acts was very innovative and well made. The square in Seville looked realistic and the innovation involved with the rotation of the set surprised me. The door in the stage that the cigarette girls came out of and how the characters interacted with the rotating set was creative. The mountain set also was a nice touch, with rocks and dimmed lighting as well to mimic the nights in the mountains. How the actors interacted with the set by jumping on rocks or climbing up the steps of the mountain also added to the story.

Concluding with the fourth act, the acting came crashing down. Though the vocals were still shining, matched by a fantastic orchestra throughout the play, the acting was an anti-climax. Everything builds up tension to Carmen’s death, but her death was very badly portrayed. The act of stabbing her, along with her acting as if she was dying looked more like she was falling asleep. It was supposed to be a brutal, passionate murder of a lover, and the scene did not come close to that emotion due to Rachvelishvili’s acting. Not even Lee’s crazed emotion and madness could make the scene more realistic. This ending practically lost the entire emotion and flow of the opera. The fantastic orchestra, innovative set and the shining Yonghoon Lee could not make up for some unrealistic acting, fading vocals and could not bring the opera to a spectacular performance level.

Photo Credits to Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera


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Critics’ Corner

Writing encourages us to process what we have encountered, to articulate global impressions or break them down into more analytical components. Here in the Critics’ Corner, we respond in writing to events and excursions.

Feel free to express your own point-of-view, but back it up with details — especially visual ones — that support your opinions.

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