Opera by Georges Bizet. Libretto: Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halevy. Opera Queensland. Conductor: Emmanuel Joel-Hornak. Original Director: Francesca Zambello. Revival Director: Mathew Barclay. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. Oct 26 – Nov 10, 2012.

Ask the man on the street to whistle a tune from an opera and most likely he will whistle something from Carmen. With its score of “Opera’s Greatest Hits,” “The Toreador Song”, “The Flower Song” and “Habanera”, Bizet’s love triangle between a gypsy, matador and soldier has never failed to capture and enrapture an audience since it first premiered in Paris in 1875.

But Queensland Opera’s new production of it was not their finest hour. With a Don Jose who was having a decidedly off-night, and an orchestra whose tempi found the singers trying to frequently catch up, it was a night to remember for all the wrong reasons.

The production, originally produced in Australia in 2008 by Opera Australia but based on a 2006 Covent Garden original, was certainly grand with an 80 plus cast of singers, dancers, actors and children.

The star of the night was the voluptuous American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chavez as Carmen. Repeating the role she played for Opera Australia in Sydney, she was seductive and sexy, had a ton of Latin fire and sang with passion. As one of her two lovers, Jose Carbo matched her performance giving a fine bravura reading of the matador Escamillo, however the part of Don Jose was vocally way beyond Konstantin Andreiev on the night. Surprising as the international credits for this Ukrainian born tenor are impressive. Lecia Robertson was a colorless Micaela, but in minor roles, Shaun Brown (Dancaire), Bradley Daley (Remendado), Emily Burke (Fraquita) and Sally-Anne Russell (Mercedes), were particularly pleasing, especially in their Second Act smugglers quintet with Chavez. It was a highlight.

The set looked appropriately Adalusian, the costumes were appropriately gypsy, and the dances appropriately of the Flamenco type. But despite the authentic look the brilliance of Bizet’s work was missing.

Peter Pinne          


American mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez as Carmen.

Kirstin Chávez as Carmen with José Carbó as Escamillo.

Photographer: Branco Gaica.

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