Sunday Night at the Opera - a day late because of Valentine's Day. This week - the Opera Lyon production of "Carmen" currently available (for free) to live stream on the Opera Platform site (see below for the link). So if you are wondering what Regietheater is then this is a good opera to watch to get a sense of it. The opera is very well known and this production completely re-imagines everything. The Spanish setting - gone, we are now in Paris; no bull ring - we are in a strip club; soldiers in act 1 - gone, corrupt police instead; children's choir of pretend soldiers - gone, not sure what they were, maybe trick or treaters. The dimension of sleaze and human degradation is emphasized and the opera is turned into a kind of parable. (Be warned - this production definitely gets an R rating for nudity and adult situation and violence).
The is not to say that it was not entertaining. At times it was very entertaining and a lot of it worked, at least in the broad sense. The downward spiral of Don Jose is a part of the opera and the production brings that out. Much of the credit goes to Younghon Lee as Don Jose. He is the strongest member of the cast by far and puts in a terrific and fully engaged performance. What doesn't work is that much of the small details are muddled and don't make any sense. Why does Micaela need a guide to find DJ in act 3 when he is still at the same location he was in in act 1; Did DJ go to jail at the end of act 1 and if not, then what exactly is act 2 all about; why didn't he just get fired from the police force; how many police forces use trumpets to call the members of the force together for roll call, and on and on... But if you can buy into the larger premise the production will make more sense. If you start to nit-pick on these kinds of details then it begins to fall apart, IMHO.
I wish I could tell you that the cast was excellent, but alas, they were not. They were decidedly a mixed bag. Younghon Lee is terrific and is by far the strongest member of the cast. The Carmen of José Maria lo Monaco is also very strong. The production is at its best when Carmen and DJ are the focus. Their last scene in act 4 is a good example. It was almost as if they left the setting behind and finally were able to engage each other personally. I finally in this scene got a glimpse of the Carmen I have come to know over the years. But what was up with the Dancairo and Remendado in drag? Vocally they were ok, slightly better were the Francesca and Mercedes. I am sorry but I did not like Micaela - Nathalie Manfrino - I am not sure why exactly but something about her voice was strained and pushed. And the Escamillo of Giorgio Caoduro was quite difficult to listen to. He went sharp every time he went above the staff. I was never quite sure who he was supposed to be anyway, and the way Micaela is disposed of in the end is quite absurd. This production just had to find a repulsive way to dispose of all the characters I suppose. The Zuniga is simply poor (and quite a wretched human being in this production) but I quite liked Morales - Pierre Doyen.
I should say that I do not object to Regietheater. On the contrary I appreciate well thought out re-imaginings of great opera, even if they don't work 100%. This production I am rather divided about. On the whole, I found the production entertaining, but yet it was a little lost. I felt that it spent most of the time trying to force an extreme interpretation of the plot arch. It did not work completely for me. I will say that I do like Opera Platform in that they provide quite a mix of productions from very traditional to very Regie it does provide a nice snapshot of the opera world.