Tag Archives: Bizet

on Carmen’s anniversary, a sing-off to celebrate

Bizet’s Carmen

Editor’s note: This is a Golden Operatoonity post.

Today, March 3, marks the anniversary of Bizet’s Carmen, which premiered on this day in Paris in 1875.

With one work, Bizet ushers in the verismo opera movement.

Carmen is hardly my favorite opera. As a storyteller, it’s damned hard for me to like Carmen as the central figure in this opera. She’s hard, calculating, cruel and fatalistic. Modern mores sometimes prevent other operagoers from engaging with Carmen as well, as evidenced  in comments such as, “Why is everyone smoking on stage? That’s ridiculous for a bunch of singers” or “A cigarette factory is a goofy setting for an opera.”

Whatever you think about Carmen or the setting or the preposterousness of the storyline, however much you might scratch your head or downright ache for Don Jose’s complete meltdown over a woman not worthy of him, it is Bizet’s soaring, riveting music that lifts the opera into the realm of exceptional works.

Today, in celebration of Carmen, rather than trot out the expected treatments of Habanera, etc., I’d like to offer you Don Jose’s “Flower” aria, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee” as sung by various artists.

First we have a clip of  Jonas Kaufmann. Truly, this is one of the most exquisitely complete performances of this aria available on YouTube. He sings and acts the HELL out of it, and for me, I have to have more than a pretty sound to really relish opera performance. I think Kaufmann is the most complete male performer today. You will love this, that is, if you have no moral objections to a tenor voice with a unique baritone quality to it.

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Next we have Roberto Alagna’s “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee” which sounds exquisite, but he doesn’t exude that tortured spirit,the inner demons, that is so essential to the portrayal of Don Jose.

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Next is José Carreras from a 1987 Metropolitan Opera production. He certainly sings the dickens out of this. Truly, a world class tenor. His gestures, his posture are more gallant than tortured.  It’s amazing that Carmen (Agnes Baltsa) sits still as a statue and is unmoved by that performance. Also worth noting is how much the style of opera performance has changed in one generation, from Carreras to Kaufmann.

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While Carreras vocally is the strongest, Kaufmann’s is the best total performance, followed by Carreras, then Alagna. What say you, opera devotees?

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Some ‘Habaneras’ celebrating Bizet’s birthday

Georges Bizet

by Gale Martin / @operatoonity

Today in Paris, France, composer Georges Bizet was born in 1838. Though he had no great body of operas to contribute to the repertoire, not like Verdi, he certainly has a created an operatic legacy enjoyed today because of Carmen, his best known work.

It was composed not long before he died. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to witness the success of it.

Bachtrack.com lists 47 performances of Carmen on its site featuring live classical performances worldwide including Deutsche Oper, the San Francisco Opera Company, Latvian National Opera, and Zurich Opera.

Another of his operas performed occasionally is Les Pêcheurs de Perles  or The Pearl Fishers.

In celebration of Bizet and the music of his best known operas, here’s a few “Habaneras” for you.

Here’s Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham in a 2005 performance of Carmen, whom I recently heard in the role for Opera Company of Philadelphia, reviewed here:

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Now for a “Habanera” completely different in style and staging, here’s Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza’s “Habanera:”

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And in concert is Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča:

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Do you have a favorite performance of Carmen or the Habanera?

 

 

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Opera Co. of Phila. launches ‘Carmen’ under the stars

historic Independence Hall, the southern bookend of Independence Mall in Center City Philadelphia

The Opera Company of Philadelphia cordially invites the City of Philadelphia to grab their picnic baskets and blankets, and join them for Opening Night Philadelphia!, a free, public simulcast of Bizet’s Carmen on September 30, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. on historic Independence Mall.

This marks the first big screen live simulcast  at one of Philadelphia’s most iconic public spaces and has been made possible by an $150,000 inaugural gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge to support art ideas that enrich and engage Philadelphia.

“We are proud to bring this classic production of Carmen to life in a  larger-than-life way,” shared General Director David B. Devan. “We have affirmed . . . the important role that art and music play in making our city vibrant. Our hope is to have just as many first-time opera-goers in our audience for this special evening on Independence Mall as we have loyal opera fans – that’s the fun of it.”

Carmen tells the story of a beguiling gypsy who sets her sights on a naïve but passionate young corporal, tracing a tale of seduction, obsession, and deadly betrayal. Bizet’s masterpiece features many of opera’s most powerful melodies, from the bewitching “Habañera,” to the passionate “Seguidilla,” and the bravura of the “Toreador” song, capturing the imagination from the first notes of its renowned overture.

Mezzo Rinat Shaham sings Carmen at OCP this fall

“We chose Carmen specifically as a vehicle for Rinat Shaham, one of the most acclaimed Carmens of our time,” shared Artistic Director Robert B. Driver. Rinat began her career at the Curtis Institute of Music, and sang career-forging roles with OCP early on, including Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, and Werther’s Charlotte.

Shaham has performed the title role of Bizet’s opera in New York, Berlin, Stuttgart, Japan, Montreal, Miami and Tel Aviv, among others. Her Glyndebourne Festival debut in Carmen led the The Independent to praise her as “… a sensation. From the moment she slinks downstage…. this [Carmen] uses the music like promises and threats, coaxing, cajoling, insinuating, bending the melody.”

As Don José, Canadian tenor David Pomeroy makes his OCP debut on the heels of recent performances at the Metropolitan Opera in the title roles Romeo and Juliet and The Tales of Hoffmann. He starred as Alfredo in Vancouver Opera’s La traviata earlier this year, and sang Pinkerton in recent Canadian Opera Company performances of Madama Butterfly.

Rising star baritone Jonathan Beyer, a Curtis Institute of Music alumnus who has sung a number of major roles with Pittsburgh Opera and recently performed in the World Premiere of Moby Dick at Dallas Opera, makes his Company debut as Escamillo.

Academy of Vocal Arts alumna Ailyn Pérez, who sang the title role of Romeo and Juliet with the Opera Company, returns as Micaëla following performances of Marguerite in Faust with Santa Fe and San Diego Operas.

OCP’s Carmen will be performed in French with English translations and runs for five performances on September 30, October 2m, 5, 9m & 14, 2011.

Information and details on the September 30th Opening Night Philadelphia! event, including registration for free tickets, can be found at www.operaphila.org/CARMEN.



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don’t quote me . . .

 

Let us have fantasy, boldness, unexpectedness, enchantment—above all, tenderness,  morbidezza (softness)!
—Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

 

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