It's been ten years since IU Opera Theater did Bizet's Spanish tale of passion and tragedy, Carmen, and this Saturday's successful production to a packed house makes it seem much too long.
As the curtain went up on the overture and on each act, the Carmen enamored Don Jose was behind the bars of a prison as he is in Mérimée's novel. It's a powerful image in a production that breaths new life into Robert O'Hearn's vintage designs with creative and varied staging by Jeffrey Buchman and masterful lighting effects by Patrick Mero.
Saturday night's Carmen was a sultry and commanding Patricia Illera. Justin Stolz, her soldier lover Don Jose started out a bit tentatively, but grew in power and command as the opera went on. Claire Lopatka was moving as Micaela, Don Jose's girl from back home. Jian Huang was the evening's toreador, Escamillo. Jeremy Gusin was a sturdy actor and singer as Don Jose's commander. Madeline Ley, Chelsea DeLorenz, Andres Acosta and Darian Clonts were a very effective as a vocal and dramatic quartet and not so successful as percussionists in their role as Carmen's smuggler confidants.
Although the dramatic solo moments were all in place, I confess that it was the director Buchman's skillfully deployed crowd scenes of the production that fascinated me. The chorus prepared by Walter Huff is very large and they filled the stage and except for the last act, each of the singers seemed to have a place, a role, a part in whichever community or group they were portraying. The same can be said for Brent Gault's children's chorus.
David Effron conducted Carmen with maximum attention for the orchestral and vocal colors that are such a rich part of this opera.
IU Opera Theater's production of Bizet's Carmen has final performances Friday and Saturday, March 4th and 5th
At the theatre for you, I'm George Walker