Carmen: An Opéra Comique

Opera is testimony to history itself. It has survived war and disease and the volatile push and pull of political disaster. In a world where the role of fine arts is a shrinking one, opera has retained its dignity to an impressive degree- statues crumble, paintings are stolen, but music is something that will prevail through the ages.

With that in mind, I can say this: seeing Carmen by Georges Bizet on Thursday night was an honor.

To me, one of things that made the show so captivating was the fact that it was in French. What I expected to be a drawback actually enhanced my night. Professor Eversley was right when she said that an English translation of the songs isn’t necessary for a full experience at the opera. The performers sang each song with a remarkably broad range of genuine emotion, and there were several times throughout the entire show where I felt the songs more than I actually understood them.

Carmen’s arias, for instance, are a perfect example. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the literal meaning of her words without the small caption box on the seat in front of mine, I could still comprehend the shift of moods inherent to the scene- like below in the final act, when she’s singing about her need for freedom


When looking at different types of performances, I think that this is important. The acting that you see on television isn’t the same as the acting you see in movies, and that kind of acting certainly isn’t the same as what you would see in a play or musical. In television and film, actors can take several shots of the same scene, altering camera angles and lighting to emphasize details. On stage, however, there’s no such thing as a retake. In that way, it is important to recognize- and applaud- the talent of the performers we saw on Thursday. Ignoring the fact that there were no microphones and every musical number relied on a very delicate combination of vocal projection and the architecture of the theatre, I was stunned at how forcefully performers conveyed both their emotions and their intent.

Whatever I was expecting from the opera, it certainly wasn’t a breathtaking performance like this. It was my first time at the Met, and, hopefully, not the last.