Displaying all its Passion
By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Karen Aldmond

New York City, N.Y.  Only one word can describe The Metropolitan Opera's HD live Revival of Bizet’s opera CARMEN:Passionate”. When on camera, we could observe the passion in the hands movements of Conductor LOUIS LANGRÉE as he conducted his orchestra. Lingerin on the air, we could hear BIZET’s passionate melodies, gurgling like water as they emanated from the different instruments. There was passion on the stage, expressed in the movements of the dancers.  And lots of passion in the voices of the principal singers: Mezzo-Soprano CLÉMENTINE MARGAINE singing the role of Carmen, Tenor  ROBERTO ALAGNA singing the role of Don José,  Lyric Soprano ALEKSANDRA KURZAK singing  the role of  Michaela, and Bass ALEXANDER VINOGRADOV singing the role of  bullfighter Escamillo, as they interpret their different arias.

Directed Live in HD by Director GARY HALVORSON, the telecast of Sir RICHARD EYRE Met’s production of CARMEN that was transmitted on February 2,  2019, on movie theatres and viewed on 70 countries around the world, allowed the audience to watch an opera in which each singer, including the children in the children's choir, sang its music with passion.

Clémentine Margaine, center in the role of Carmen

But we ought to remember that  Carmen (MARGAINE) the gypsy from Seville, Spain, is a passionate woman. She walks seductively swaying her hips, and the fire in her  dark eyes melts men’s hearts. She further seduces them, when she sings and dance.

On scene II, of the four-act opera, Carmen describes herself  to  Don José (ALAGNA), who is trying to ignore her, after entering The Plaza from the cigarette's factory where she works. Facing him, she begins dancing the  Habanera  (A dance from Habana, Cuba in 2/4 time with a variety of  rhythms and a beat similar to the tango) as she sings: “Love is only a revelious bird, that none can ever hope to tame. And getting closer to him and looking deeply into his eyes, she warns him about her, in the lyrics of her song, when she says: Thou you may love me not, I love you, and because  I love you, you need to be  beware of me.”

The sensual timbre of  voice of Mezzo Soprano MARGAINE  and her acting, brought  Carmen, the gypsy who lives in the present, follows her own moral standards and makes her own rules, to life. And while the dancing of the soprano, could have use more freedom of movements, her facial expressions and her acting in general, were superb.

 Mezzo-Soprano Cleméntine Margaine and Tenor Roberto Alagna

Re-enacting his role as Don José, in the Metropolitan Opera, Tenor ROBERT ALAGNA put veracity in BIZET’s verissimo opera (where the plots resembles life and their arias imitate dialogue) In his acting, ALAGNA made the audience feel his emotions: a mix of passion and shame for his actions. In his acting and facial expressions, the tenor showed us his happiness and his intense pain, at the end, when Carmen rejects him, and he finds himself unable to see Carmen, the woman he adores, with another man.

ALAGNA's tenor's voice has a marvelous timbre and is trained to move with ease from the lower to the higher tones of the scale bursting, at the top, into a loud painful scream, which sounds marvelous because the sound is completely controlled. In his role as Don Jose, when kneling in front of the bullfight arena, he begs Carmen not le leave him, more than singing ALAGNA's voice became a cry of help from a broken man who for the first time in his life, feels helpless. 

Contrasting with the wild passion of Carmen, a woman of the world, is the pure passion of Michaela  (ALEKSANDRA KURZAK)  the young, innocent girl from the village also loves Don José, and he loved her before he was seduced by Carmen. .

In CARMEN the opera, we first met her in ACT I when she arrives at the soldier’s garrison looking for Don José, carrying a the letter for him in which his mother suggest to him that he should marry Micaela.

Soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and Tenor Roberto Alagna

The Lyric sound of the timbre of the Soprano' voice, may only be described as beautiful. She has also the technique, that allows her to lets it flow when she sings, allowing us to hear a pure sound even when it is diminished to a whisper. Her “Micaela’s Aria” was followed by applause. 

In the opera. Micaela represents Don José’s past, as a simple man. Carmen, his present. as a soldier, then deserter and smuggler at the end. Micaela is not an easy role to play because the singing of her arias demands vocal technique and the role of Micaela in CARMEN requires acting. She starts as an innocent young woman in love with don José, who sees the man she loves not only falling in love with another woman, but going to jail and having his future destroyed. Yet, her love for him is such, that in spite of that, she gets the courage to travel to the smugglers hiding place just to let him know that his mother is dying. On the HD performance, KURSAK mastered her role.

Bass Alexander Vinogradov (center)  in the role of Bullfighter Escamillo

And while the rich full Bass voice ALEXANDER VINOGRADOV is marvelous in its tone, his impersonation of Escamillo an Spanish bullfighter could have needed more flexibility in his body movements, and  more allure in his facial expressions

A Brief History of  the Opera CARMEN

 The Plaza, with Carmen (MARGAINE) standing wearing a black dress

Set in Seville, Spain in the l9th Century, CARMEN, the opera,  was based on the novella by the same name written by PROSPER MERIMÉE. Its libretto was written by HENRI MELLHAC and LUDOVIC HALÉVY and its score composed  by GEORGES BIZET. According to some musicologists however, three of his CARMEN’s melodies are songs from Hiberian origin. One of them the famous  HABANERA who, is believe was written ssby SEBASTIAN YRADIER, a composer whose chromaticism and diatonicism suited perfectly BIZET’s style for his opera.

CARMEN the Opera premiered in March 3, l875 in Paris (Opera-Comique) and in spite of its wonderful music,was received with a cool reception by the Parisians. We ought to remember that most of the operas presented at that time represented  characters from the European Nobility, so with his “low class” characters CARMEN was label “vulgar”.

The criticism and poor reception of the opera BIZET considered his masterpiece may have killed himfrom a broken heart.  Three months after  his opera was produced, on June 3 of the same year, the composer died from a heart attack.