Sunday, September 28, 2014

Carmen, the Opera, Vancouver 2014

I love music.  I love song.  I love the amazing capacity of the human voice. Opera is the penultimate expression of human vocal music. It’s the ballet of voice,  Amazing.  A learned experience.
I didn’t begin liking opera. I preferred Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Country Joe and the Fish, the Guess Who, Eagles,Dave Matthews Band to anything operatic for the longest time.  My friend Anna Borowska, a physician who also sings beautiful operatic soprano heavily influenced me. I liked Handel but hearing Messiah sung by her and friends at St. John’s Anglican Church one year really made me think there may be more to music than Banjo and Bluegrass.  I’ll always love Amy Grant and Third Day but really, maybe I could listen to more opera, and see if there’s something there for me.
So over the last decade, I took in a few of the Vancouver Opera Series and wasn’t disappointed.  It was different. Not reggae. And certainly not rapp.  Opera is a whole other world.  Out there, like Mars and the space probes.  Something to reach for.
I cried for the first time listening to a soprano sing this last spring at an opera I heard in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.  I came home and bought seasons tickets to the Vancouver Opera for the first time.  I've always liked seasons tickets to the BC Ballet and Pacific Theatre but this was the first time for me with opera.
Carmen was the VO's first production of the year. My friend, Laura, loves the opera.  It gives her a chance to wear her long gloves.  I’d taken her to Barber of Seville, another Vancouver Opera piece a couple of years before and she's been hooked ever since.
Opera stories are a bit odd. A barber who chops up people. Now Carmen , a bad girl who works in a tobacco factory, cuts up a girls face and then lures a good son and soldier from his duty and the good girlfriend to the life of a gypsy smuggler. Then she dumps him for another and he kills her. Domestic violence. Telling the ending in Opera isn’t a spoiler. The whole story is written in the program.  Nobody is there for the prose. It’s all about the music,
Bizet the french composer who died in 1875 wrote this amazing music that everyone knows. I recognized it right off.  Two of the pieces from Carmen are the most heard and most easily recognized opera musical lines in the world today.  Meanwhile Bizet wasn’t sure of himself.  Died shortly after Carmen first appeared and before it achieved almost universal fame.
It’s like “Don’t put on the red dress’ of modern day music.  Indeed a lot of this hysterical borderline personality disorder shallow lust theme is a kind of morality play. The music transcends all this.
I loved mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson’s voice and performance as Carmen.  She was terrific. Her voice caught every nuance of emotion and filled the theatre. Her every movement oozed bad girl. Tenor Christopher Magiera played soldier Don Jose and was truly believable as the young duped lover who chose Carmen over Micaela, the woman who truly loved him performed by  Marianne Fiset.  Soprano Caitlin Wood, played  Fraguita and Mezzo Soprano Laurelle Jade Froese who played Mercedes were delightful, their songs and performances thoroughly entertaining.  I especially loved Baritone Morgan Smith who played Escamillo, the bull fighter who Carmen left soldier Don Jose for.  The chorus was stupendous.
Laura and I both loved the Orchestra conducted by Jacques Lacombe.  Director Joel Ivany outdid himself with all the activity and large cast.  Kinza Tyrrel as Children’s Chorus Director had reason to be proud of the performance of all the children.  Camellia Koos set design was unforgettable. The bull ring was truly inspired.   We loved it all.
All around, a great afternoon of entertainment.  The music so moved me, the voices sublime.  Laura loved it.  Packed Queen Elizabeth Theatre and roaring applause.

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