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Christian Rärth's Carmen

Grand Théâtre
12/07/2000 -  and 9, 12, 14*, 17, 19, 22, 26, 29, 31 December 2000
Georges Bizet: Carmen
Sara Fulgoni (Carmen), Rachel Harnisch (Micaëla), Christine Buffle (Frasquita), Delphine Haiden (Mercédès), Jon Ketilsson (Don José), Jorge Lagunes (Escamillo), Primitivo Daza (flamenco dancer Lillas Pastia), Antoine Garcin (Zuniga),
Orchestre de la Suisse romande, Cyril Diederich (Conductor), Guillaume Tournaire (choir Master) Choir of the Grand Théâtre, Christan Räth (producer).

Placed in the Francist Spain of 1950's, the Carmen of Räth is a more contemporary version of Bizet's opera. This Carmen is Räth's first production after having often collaborated with Francesca Zambello. If this end of year production did not arouse such a cloud of disapprobation and the ire of the public, as last years Aida did, is simply because it was, in fact, a quite conventional version of the very popular opera. Though the critiques have not rewarded the work, on the contrary, but still one can say that it was a quite good production all in all.

Spaniards are getting ready for a procession of the virgin Mary and a mafioso -right out of the Chicago of the Prohibition- dressed as a priest is stealing the offerings in exchange of one or two benedictions. He later reveals himself as the Remendado. The children choir appears as a Scout troop, though dressed more as official BP scouts than some Francist paramilitary youths. If we subtract these few errors of interpretation we bathe in a popular and quite convincing Spanish atmosphere. An Authentic Lillas Pastia directly from Seville (Primitivo Daza) performs a dazzling, though too short, Flamenco performance. Then arrives the toreador Escamillo (Jorge Lagunes) and a bull head "flambé" is brought in to Lillas' hide-out. It might even be a hint to the mad cow crisis. At some point it almost resembled West Side story. A special mention must be made about the extraordinary light performance operated by Wolfgang Göbbel who is a usual, but always praised, guest of the Grand Théâtre. He bathed the set in an authentic Mediterranean light. The set was quite dull, except for the scene in the mountains almost Wagnerian with reddish rocks and misty air. The last scene brings us to a market place in front of a white arena. Colourful Gypsy fabrics and shiny toreadors march into the arena, and the tragedy commences…

And Carmen, well there is no doubt that Sara Fulgoni has a beautiful voice. Except that her acting is not convincing. She was neither sensual nor enough feminine and had no style. Carmen is a difficult opera to play and to sing because so many magnificent productions and films have been made out of it. It is therefore very difficult to bring something new without risking a certain failure. Don José came to us directly from the north (Jon Ketilsson). Though his acting performance was quite good, his voice was less up to the standard of such a role, cold and not passionate enough. Rachel Harnisch's (Micaëla) had a fresh voice and an excellent phrasé. Her diction is remarkably clear. Cyril Diedrich, who replaced Alain Lombard who was ill, gave a quite nice rhythm to this Carmen.

Zoltan Bécsi



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