archive
links
essays

Carmen

Emily Pulley as Carmen
Emily Pulley as Carmen
Photo: Amanda Tipton
The role of Carmen is on every diva's shortlist of "must perform," and each one puts her own stamp on the legendary gypsy temptress, but one thing is certain, Carmen is quite clear where she is coming from in the famous "Habanera":

Love is a rebellious bird
that nobody can tame,
and you call him quite in vain
if it suits him not to come.

Nothing helps, neither threat nor prayer.
One man talks well, the other's mum;
it's the other one that I prefer.
He's silent but I like his looks.

Love! Love! Love! Love!

Love is a gypsy's child,
it has never, ever, known a law;
love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you'd best beware! etc.

The bird you thought you had caught
beat its wings and flew away ...
love stays away, you wait and wait;
when least expected, there it is!

All around you, swift, so swift,
it comes, it goes, and then returns ...
you think you hold it fast, it flees
you think you're free, it holds you fast.

Love! Love! Love! Love!

Love is a gypsy's child,
it has never, ever, known a law;
love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you'd best beware!

Adriano Graziani as Don Jose anbd Emily Pulley as Carmen
Adriano Graziani as Don José
and Emily Pulley as Carmen
Photo: Amanda Tipton
Like love, Carmen is unpredictable, contradictory, and elusive. She teases men ceaselessly, offering a promise, then withdrawing it as soon as they are hooked.

Even her Romany friends are daunted by her complete commitment to freedom, as she defines it.

driano Graziani as Don Jose and Emily Pulley as Carmen
Adriano Graziani as Don José
and Emily Pulley as Carmen
Photo: Amanda Tipton
No doubt, psychoanalysts could have a field day weighing in on Carmen's lack of commitment; but, she warned us right from the top; nevertheless, her allure is such that no one heeds her warning.

In Central City Opera's current production, Emily Pulley makes the role her own by portraying the femme fatale as one tough cookie, a cigarette factory brawler and street-smart survivor. And the soldiers and tavern rowdies swarm to her, passing on many of her attractive co-workers.

Adriano Graziani as Don José and Angela Mortellaro as Micaela
Adriano Graziani as Don José
and Angela Mortellaro as Micaela
Photo: Amanda Tipton
Pulley's sultry mezzo takes in the entire emotional range of the stirring melody and provacative lyrics, while she chooses keep the physical come-on somewhat under wraps compared with many provocative approaches.

Regardless, the small village emigrée Don José (Adriano Graziani) never has a chance against the worldy Seville gypsy seductress. In her initimatable charming way, Carmen connives Don José into letting her escape from the soldiers who have arrested her for stabbing a co-worker. When Don José is released from prison, after serving time (and being stripped of his stripes) for collusion, Carmen is, surprisingly, still grateful and interested, leading to their affair and Don José's conscription into the gypsy smuggling operation. Graziani wears his passion for Carmen on his sleeve and via his melifluous tenor.

Michael Mayes as Escamillo
Michael Mayes as Escamillo
Photo: Amanda Tipton
In short order, Don José's possessiveness drives Carmen away, into the arms of Escamillio (Michael Mayes), the famous matador, who makes his entrance during the second most famous aria from this incredible score by Georges Bizet and libretto by Henry Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, "Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre" (popularly known as the "Toreador Song"). One can't imagine a more handsome, winsome, and cocksure bullfighter than Mayes. As with all great tragedies, we can see the writing on the wall as soon as he shows up, and once Mayes starts singing in his warm, hefty baritone, Carmen and Don José's fate is sealed. All this, despite the best efforts of Micaela (Angela Mortellaro), whose fetching presence and sweet soprano would convince any sane man to return home to a pastoral idyll.

Generally, this story is considered the title character's tragedy, but that would be tagging Carmen with a judgment and tragic flaw that are based on mainstream values regarding gender roles and societal norms; rather, we would argue that this is Don José's tragedy, his obscession representing nearly every man on the stage who comes on to Carmen. If not for that, there would be no tragedy. To blame Carmen, however much as one may disagree with her lifestyle, is like blaming rape on a woman who wears provacative clothing. Ultimately, this comes back to men learning to control their instincts and their ego.

Colorado Children's Chorale
Colorado Children's Chorale
and ensemble
Photo: Amanda Tipton
Adam Turner and the 50-piece festival orchestra do wonders with Bizet's marvelous score. The Colorado Children's Chorale, as the local kids and street urchins, bring a boisterous and infectuous enthusiasm, as well as a delightful vocal range, to the crowd scenes.

And for those who have never been to this artfully restored 19th-century opera house, there is not a bad seat in the house, with excellent acoustics throughout.

Central City Opera's presentation of Carmen runs through August 6th. For tickets: tickets.centralcityopera.org/carmen.

Bob Bows



  Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster