(State Opera SA, 10 November 2011)
Carmen is golden, deathless and a remarkable example of the great weird paradox; in life as in art, beautiful women who entrance deficient men get shredded. Perhaps the overt expression of this theme, or an excess of absinthe, caused its stunning, hostile Paris reception on debut in 1875. Brahms, who knew a thing or two about great music, saw it 20 times. Why the French turned on Bizet, one of their own, and rejected one of ‘the greatest creations for the musical stage’ is a mystery.
Never mind – Carmen survives and flourishes, even if they stage it in Western Australia these days sans cigars (see Carmen PC) and TVC caught this tremendous production in Adelaide, conducted by Alexander Briger, directed by Matthew Barclay (after Francesca Zambello), with Milijana Nikolic superb as Carmen and Rosario la Spina (who was excellent as Rodolfo in La Bohème in Sydney back in 2006) appropriately desperate and dateless as Don José. Nikolic’s appearance was sponsored by that late, great, friend of Art, the Hon Dr Kemeri Murray AO; not many Family Court Judges are universally liked and admired…
Carmen, whilst not unassailable to the soldier’s knife, is artistically bullet-proof. Even those who don’t get opera should embrace her.