Sultry Sexy “Carmen” at MOT begins David DiChiera’s final season
DETROIT—Bizet’s Carmen is such a universally loved opera that the Michigan Opera Theatre puts it on every five or six years. And for good reason. Opera patrons eat up the 141-year old work with a spoon.
The key to a successful Carmen is a sultry, sexually beguiling femme fatal in the title role. Mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson seems born for the role. The young Sicilian-American has the dark, sultry, bewitching sexuality to galvanize the attention of her male lead characters (and the audience) as well as layered vocals that enable her to nail her arias and belt when she needs to soar, as well as slip into smokier moods and vocals.
Costa-Jackson, who shares the role with Sandra Piques Eddy (Oct. 23) is becoming the go-to Carmen if you can get her, having just performed in a production in Mexico City, as well as a controversial interpretation of the opera in San Francisco earlier this year directed by Calixto Bieito.
Carmen is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the fall of Don José, a soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the sexy gypsy Carmen. José, unable to resist Carmen, abandons his childhood sweetheart, Micaela, and deserts his military for her. Still, he loses Carmen’s to the virile toreador Escamillo. José doesn’t take it well.
Argentine tenor Marcelo Puente played Don José on opening night (Alok Kumar on Oct. 23). His vocals are deep, resonant and textured, and he is able to deliver the vulnerability and conflict with great versatility, which shows up in his fine acting as well. Baritone Luis Orozco, who, of course, sings the signature “Votre toast, je peux vous le render,” commonly known as “The “Toreador Song,” and lures Carmen to his persona, does a very solid job throughout.
A very bright and delightful performance is turned in by Cecilia Lopez as Micaela, whose vocals and persona as the heart-broken and virginal admirer of Don Jose fills up the stage when she is on it despite her more diminutive character. She makes the most of every turn on the stage.
The sets for this Carmen are simple, but that is just fine as the settings of a cigarette factory and tavern do not require soaring sets. The magic is in the heat among Carmen, Don Jose and Escamillo. Fight choreography by Maria Todaro is also notable for its crispness and believability.
Stage Director Ron Daniels sets the story, written in 1875, in mid-20th century, but there is nothing avante garde about the presentation. It is a very straight-forward telling of Carmen, and there is not one thing wrong with that.
The MOT ensemble and choruses do a lovely job of supporting the visiting stars. The women’s chorus stands out, especially in the first-act cigarette-factory scene.
Carmen is for lovers. And this production by Michigan Opera Theatre is hot, spicy and a fan favorite for good reason.
Carmen performs through October 23. Click here for show days, times and details.