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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