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Carmen in a Hurry

06/21/2012 -  & June 26, September 2, 7, 19, 25, October 6, 2012
Georges Bizet: Carmen
Annely Peebo (Carmen), Ursula Pfitzner (Micaela), Beate Ritter (Frasquita), Eva Maria Riedl (Mercedès), Mehrzad Montazeri (Don José), Sebastian Holecek (Escamillo), Sébastien Soulès (Zuniga), Thomas Zisterer (Moralès), Josef Luftensteiner (Dancaïro), Paul Schweinester (Remendado), Georg Wacks (Lilias Pastia)
Chorus and Children’s Chorus of the Vienna Volksoper, Thomas Böttcher (chorus master), Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper, Stage Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper, Eun Sun Kim (conductor)
Guy Joosten (stage director), Johannes Leiacker (set design), Karin Seydtle (costumes), Benny Ball (light design)

S. Holecek (© D. Dimov/Volksoper Vienna)

Coming September, the Vienna Volksoper will celebrate the 150th performance of its 1995 Carmen production, staged by Guy Joosten. With the many performances the production has seen over the years, signs of fatigue are inevitable. Transplanting an opera away from its “natural habitat”, i.e. the time and place intended by the composer, can quickly make a production look dated. The dark and dreary set by Johannes Leiacker suggested the plot took place some time in the second half of the 20th century. Karin Seydtle’s costumes conveyed the dubious charm of the late eighties. Apart from set and costume design, Joosten’s staging, conceived just when “Regietheater” started to go bonkers, is remarkably, almost refreshingly, conventional.

Annely Peebo’s Carmen is a tough, broken woman, who has seen it all. The experienced singer delivered a rock-solid performance. Volksoper favorite Mehrzad Montazeri as Don José seemed mostly out of his depth. An excellent “Spieltenor”, his voice lacked the necessary stamina for this role. Ursula Pfitzner sang a heartfelt if somewhat acid-toned Micaela. Escamillo was performed by Sebastian Holecek, a routinier of the Volksoper, singing excellently. The minor roles offered a pleasant discovery: Sébastian Soulès as Zuniga was outstanding with his formidable baritone. It would be a pleasure to hear him in more substantial roles in the future. Beate Ritter (Frasquita) and Eva Maria Riedl (Mercedès) were a well-coordinated duo.

Eun Sun Kim’s debut at the helm of the Volksoper orchestra was disappointing. Hans Swarowsky, Vienna’s legendary conducting professor, always insisted that a conductor’s prime task was to take the right tempo and to maintain it. Kim had difficulties with both. Her ludicrously hasty tempi didn’t allow Bizet’s music to breathe. The soloists and chorus, singing in German, were often rushed beyond all good taste. The Volksoper Chorus and Children’s Chorus performed well. The orchestra did its best to cope with its conductor, who seemed to be in a great hurry.

Volksoper Vienna

Wiebke Kuester



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