Carmen, Royal Opera, October 2009

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This was the dress rehearsal for a revival of Francesca Zambello’s January 2007 production. It worked far better this time, mainly because Elina Garanča was such a superb Carmen. I last saw her as Cenerentola in the Metropolitan Opera’s live cinema screening, where she was excellent. Here, in quite a different role, her voice had the right edge for the part, and her acting was both seductively sexy and prettily arrogant. Compared to the performance of Anna Caterina Antonacci last time, which lacked all subtlety … well, there is no comparison at all. The dance sequences at Lilas Pastia’s, with professional dancers, seemed much better this time. Unfortunately the fight sequences directed by Mike Loades were still unconvincing. Designs by Tanya McCallin, with their high walls giving a sense of fateful claustrophobia, work well, as does the lighting by Paule Constable.

The orchestra gave a fine edge to the music, under the direction of Bertrand de Billy, who started things off at a galloping pace. With Elina Garanča as Carmen, and Roberto Alagna as Don José, both entirely convincing in their parts and singing so powerfully, this was a glowing performance. Liping Zhang did well as Micaela, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo was an elegant Toreador, and it was a delight to hear Henry Waddington speaking such commanding French as Lieutenant Zuniga.

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