The re are strange people here! “, The choir was amazed as always at the beginning – and had a special reason on Sunday. After 42 years with Franco Zeffirelli’s” Carmen “direction, Calixto Bieito has now made her entrance at the State Opera, and she replaces the familiar postcard idyll with desolate prospects. Bizet’s opera hit is now set in a region where children beg instead of play, soldiers grimly shoulder machine guns and smugglers don’t hold romantic campfires, but reach for a bottle in a worn Mercedes. s, this world is ugly enough! A telephone booth, a flagpole, that’s all there is at first. Not even the cigarette factory where Carmen works. Instead, a thick cloud of fog hangs over the scenery: possibly a hint that in this barren area only the tobacco business is flourishing.
Not strong stuff
Despite these pictures: Calixto Bieito, enfant terrible of the noughties, didn’t create strong stuff with his “Carmen”, but rather director’s theater of the mild kind. The three hours of opera, reportedly set in Spain under the Franco dictatorship, loosen up their shabbiness with show values that nostalgically refer to the 1970s and sometimes allow a touch of Olé! Folklore. Above all, Bieito doesn’t brush history against the grain. No Carmen who shot her lover Don José. Action takes place as usual.
Unfortunately, this spectacle sometimes seems a bit poor in detail – and often so conventional that the equipment degenerates into an accessory. Only here and there do personal direction and scene combine to create coherent actions – for example, when Don José and his devoted Micaëla take photos together for their distant mother in the village. In general, strong images remain in short supply. It is impressive when the masses gaze at a torero entry front on the ramp that only they can see – but for opera veterans it is a surprising memory of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s “Carmen”.
Bieito’s directing, already 22 years old, doesn’t bother, it isn’t outrageous, but it doesn’t have that certain something either. Nevertheless – or perhaps because of that – it has been touring the opera world for decades and is now also at home in Vienna under Neo-Director Bogdan Ro ?? čić. It is not without a certain irony that an old director here inherits a Methuselah.
Intensity for the ears
Musically, however, the evening is far above everyday level: the premiere in front of (almost) empty rows, postponed two weeks ago due to positive corona tests and now broadcast via streaming and ORF III, impressed with a powerful and coherent ensemble.
Overwhelming Anita Rachvelishvili, recently recovered from a corona infection herself. The Georgian coos around her Don José with dark, alluring tones, fires her bravura arias with the power of at least three Carmen’s and gives her bursts of anger volcanic force.
The re can only be one Don José, who in real life is called Piotr Beczała. And the Pole is really there as a noble step-in and provides further evidence of his market leadership among tenors. Even under high pressure, his voice reliably delivers splendor of sound and conveys the fervor that ultimately transforms the good soldier into a jealous killer – a voice like glowing liquid metal. Erwin Schrott keeps up as a rival Escamillo virile, sings the Gockelrolle as usual casually, a little off the ideal line, but roll covering self-love. And Vera-Lotte Boecker’s Micaëla? Shed the paleness of the good country bitch as soon as it intensely intensifies its soprano sound in a fight with competitor Carmen. Not to forget the melodious sound of many a small role, such as the massive Zuniga by Peter Kellner and the magnificent Mercédès by Szilvia Vörös.
House debutante Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads the state opera choir and orchestra with a sure hand, without getting the most out of the musical flow of emotions, but with engaging finesse in the gentle passages. In any case, hats off to a singing festival that will hopefully one day intoxicate Vienna’s opera fans live in the hall.
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Carmen State Opera Directors theater mild variety opera criticism