Royal Opera Carmen

The 2006 Royal Opera production of Georges Bizet’s CARMEN is as good as any in our memory.

First of all there is the beautifully sung and compellingly acted Don José of Jonas Kaufmann. Then there is the Carmen of Anna Caterina Antonacci, a Spinto soprano with plenty of chest range and vast vocal reserves, voluptuous dramatically and vocally faultless. The Micaela is sung by Nora Ansellem, pretty as a picture and elegant of voice. The Escamillo is the fine bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, one more member of the best-looking, best-sounding Carmen casts in memory.

Much commends this terrific production, beginning with Francesca Zambello’s straight to the point, no nonsense staging, beginning with the opening scene in which the American director sets the stage for what will follow, bathing everything in local color and Southern Spanish chiaroscuro morning light (the wonderful lighting is by Paule Constable). Zambello works attentively with every member of the supporting cast, every adult and every child in the choruses, fine-tuning every bit of business, with no detail ever escaping her watchful eye.  The sets and costumes by Tanya McCallin unequivocally set in 19th century Spain are accurate and vividly colorful.

Antonio Pappano conducts this quintessential French opera as commandingly as he leads just about any work in the wide ranging repertoire of the Royal Opera. Many of the tacked-on Guiraud recitatives of the Vienna revival are mercifully dispensed with in this production, spoken dialogue taking their place and well handled by all of the cast.

The excellent supporting players are all deserving of kudos: Jacques Imbrailo’s charming Morales,  Mathew Rose’s appropriately gruff Zuniga, and the lively quartet of smugglers – Elena Xanthoudakis, Victoria Vizin, Jean-Sebastien Bou, and Jean-Paul Fouchecourt.

We began this review by claiming “The Royal Opera production of Georges Bizet’s CARMEN is as good as any in our memory.” Let us correct that: The Royal Opera production of Georges Bizet’s CARMEN is the best in our memory.

This DVD is part of the Royal Opera Collection (  OA1337BD / OABD7291BD).    

Rafael de Acha       ALL ABOUT THE ARTS