Kirstin Chávez as Carmen and Jon Burton as Don José
Kirstin Chávez as Carmen
and Jon Burton as Don José
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Carmen the gypsy is a coveted role. The lucky diva gets to sing a host of famous arias, turn up the heat on a succession of manly suitors, and die a tragic death.

As the burlesque queens from the musical Gypsy would say, to be a sex object, Carmen needs a gimmick. We've seen Diana Graves take a razor from one of the soldiers and shave her inner thigh, but this was tame stuff compared to Kirstin Chávez' erotic performance in Central City Opera's current production of Georges Bizet's classic.

Jon Burton as Don Jose and Elizabeth Caballero as Micaela
Jon Burton as Don José
and Elizabeth Caballero as Micaëla
Photo: Mark Kiryluk

Her warm soprano fills the hall, further amplifing her gypsy queen charisma, but lack of chemistry with Jon Burton (Don José), mostly as a result of a physical mismatch, is problematic.

Perhaps this mismatch was a conscious choice on the part of director-choreograher Daniel Pelzig, to make it more obvious that Don José should never have abandoned Micaëla (Elizabeth Caballero), the lovely peasant girl from his village; but their chemistry falls short as well, despite Caballero's lovely, soaring solos.

Burton's tenor is compelling, but not enough to bridge the credulity gap between Don José and either Micaëla or Carmen. Don José's stature as a suiter is further exacerbated by his dreary costuming. All this leads us to question the sincerity of Carmen's infatuation with Don José, ephemeral as it may be, muting our sense of tragedy.

She sings:

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

The bird you hoped to catch
beat its wings and flew away ...
love stays away, you wait and wait;
when least expected, there it is!
All around you, swift, swift,
it comes, goes, then it returns ...
you think you hold it fast, it flees
you think you're free, it holds you fast.
Oh, love! Love! Love! Love

Jesse Marks and Sarah Tallman as the Dancers
Jesse Marks and Sarah Tallman
as the Dancers
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Michael B. Raiford's moody sets make for an intimate, even, at times, appropriately claustrophobic staging. But overall, the production short changes the acting details, for example, the activity around the pool table, the card table, and the toreador sword presentation seems superficial. On the other hand, Pelzig's passionately choreographed pas de deux, with the flashy coda involving the toreador's cape, was superb.

Kirstin Chávez as Carmen and Gustavo Ahualli as Escamillo
Kirstin Chávez as Carmen
and Gustavo Ahualli as Escamillo
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
The music, under the baton of Timothy Myers, is grand, even sitting underneath the balcony, where the sound gets squashed. The Colorado Children's Chorale is a delight, adding color and spunk to a number of scenes.

Central City Opera's production of Carmen runs through August 7th, in repertory with Händel's Amadigi di Gaula and a triple bill of three one acts: Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Francis Poulenc's The Breasts of Tiresias, and Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins. 303-292-6700 or

Bob Bows


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