‘Carmen,’ the popular opera by Georges Bizet’ where nearly all the music sounds very familiar, is an audience pleaser at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
A new production directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford who did the Lyric’s Carousel’ two seasons ago, the opera has the kind of important touches that make Broadway musicals special.
There is fine acting of major roles, an outstanding voice, that of tenor Joseph Calleja as Don José, a leading lady, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova who seems born to the part of Carmen, modern dance movements that capture audience attention during musical interludes, and exciting music thrillingly played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra that has people tapping their toes during the opera and humming during intermission.
Ashford’s staging is creative. The final scene where Don José stabs Carmen rather than have her go to her most recent lover, the dashing bullfighter Escamillo (Christian Van Horn), is set against the dramatic, high back of a bullfighting arena where its audience is silhouetted against a red-orange sky.
Excellent set design by David Rockwell and costumes by Julie Weiss beautifully fit the period, location and atmosphere.
But make no mistake. This is opera. Bizet’s music and the libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy have turned Prosper Mérimée’s ‘Carmen’ novella about seduction, jealousy and death into a dramatic opera, beautifully sung at the Lyric.
The takeaway from Lyric’s ‘Carmen’, a co-production with the Houston Grand Opera, is Gubanova’s ‘Habanera’ and ‘Seguidilla,’ Van Horn’s ‘Toreador Song’ and Calleja’s gorgeous ‘Flower Song.’
Details: ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, now through March 25. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera and call (312) 827-5600.