Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

MET debut of modern Carmen opera at ArtSpring

By KIRSTEN BOLTON

FOR ARTSPRING

The classical, sensual phenomenon that is George Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen gets a creative new world makeover by acclaimed English director Carrie Cracknell, making her Met debut. ArtSpring’s popular MET: LIVE IN HD broadcast brings the sweeping drama to the screen this Saturday morning, Jan. 27.

Originally set in 19th-century Spain, the story of the power struggle and downfall of soldier Don José by the seductive wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen moves its action to the present-day American southwest amid a band of human traffickers.

The tobacco factory of the original setting is now envisioned as the rear loading docks of a modern cigarette plant of dubious intent, surrounded by chain link fences and monitored by armed security guards. The bullfight backdrop of the classic finale is here reimagined as a rodeo spectacle, complete with jumping clowns wearing garish costumes and a stadium of fans cheering on the macabre scene.

Despite the modernized setting, the political struggles, gender and power dynamics, love and sexuality, and violence all still stand, albeit coming through in a different form and world. The music, however, remains intact, including one of opera’s most famous songs, Habenara, in which Carmen sings about the untameable nature of love.

Young Russian mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina’s silken voice leads a powerhouse quartet of stars in the touchstone role of the irresistible femme fatale, alongside tenor Piotr Beczała as Carmen’s lover Don José. Soprano Angel Blue is the devoted Micaëla and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is the swaggering Escamillo. Daniele Rustioni conducts Bizet’s heart-pounding score.

Carmen is sung in French, with subtitles. As always, quiche, cookies and coffee are on sale at intermission, an opportunity to mingle and share opinions about the experimental production.

The opera comes with a flashing light warning in Act 2 for those who are sensitive.

Tickets are now on sale in the box office or online for $25 adult, $20 senior and $15 youth.

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