2017, Opera di Roma
Border Control, Under the Volcano and Breaking Bad meet in this production of Opera di Roma, disastrously staged & directed by Valentina Carrasco. Of which more later, but whilst any dumb directorial decision cannot defeat Carmen, it may nevertheless diminish it somewhat.
Set impressively in the Roman Baths at the Terme di Caracalla (one was reminded of pop concerts at Red Rocks), the music stood out, with conductor Jesús López-Cobos content to let it do its own work in the main, and the leads in fine voice. Veronica Simeoni is a fine exemplar of Bel Canto, although she is the inverse of Callas – singing good, acting not-so. (Her response, we presume under direction, was to “go blue” in the acting department, and indeed there are quite a few ‘flashes’ throughout.) Rosa Feola, as poor little discarded Micaëla, was the big hit of the night, perfectly balancing her beautiful numbers with a tasteful and meaningful dramatic performance.
Alexander Vinogradov as the Toreador, Escamillo, was more than adequate and persuaded us that Carmen would throw-over Don José for him. In this effort he was aided by Roberto Aronica as Don José, stoic in a fairly thankless role.
The support was fine and given the demands of an outdoor production, the cast can’t really be faulted for their vocal work, although there were hints of disconnect twixt stage and baton at odd moments.
Which brings us back to…direction and another basket of modernist tropes, The Varnished Culture’s bête noire.
As a preface to the film, we were treated to several minutes of Carrasco wittering on about making Carmen relevant for today. The absurdity of such a statement was borne out in spectacular fashion once the party started.
Director Carrasco made the following decisions:
Further comment is probably superfluous but we would respond, seriatim, as follows:
Carmen is said to be bullet-proof. It is certainly Bizet’s finest compositional moment. Yet in watching this filmed production one found oneself, god help us, wishing they’d build that wall! One found oneself, god help us, wishing we could vote for that nasty opportunist.