[Met Performance] CID:255460

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, November 2, 1978

Carmen (751)
Georges Bizet | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Elena Obraztsova

Don José
Guy Chauvet

Leona Mitchell

James Morris

Alma Jean Smith

Shirley Love

Andrea Velis

Russell Christopher

Mario Bertolino

Gene Boucher

Set & Projection Designer
Josef Svoboda

Giuseppe Patanè

Göran Gentele

Costume Designer
David Walker

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Alvin Ailey

Stage Director
Bodo Igesz

Carmen received twelve performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

Seductive Carmen at The Met

Carmen is far too much leopard to be ever thought of as refreshing, but last night at the Metropolitan Opera Elena Obraztsova was so naturally seductive in the role she seemed like a breeze enflamed by solar power. "Carmen" hasn't been seen at the Met for three seasons and the Goeran Gentele production with sets and projections by Josef Svoboda returned with several new people in major roles. Headed by Miss Obraztsova, the cast included Guy Chauvet as Don José, and James Morris as Escamillo, all singing these parts for the initial time at the Met. Mario Bertolino in the lesser role of Zuniga also was a Met first.

Fortunately the performance was sparked by a sympathetic maestro in the pit, Giuseppe Patane, leading the Bizet opera for the first time before the golden horseshoe. He conducted with a firm, vital pulse and a wealth of color, making the score really sing from beginning to end. For the first time since this production made its appearance in 1972, those in power had restored the Guiraud sung recitatives instead of using the original spoken Bizet dialogue. This was done for practical reasons as the Guiraud version is normally performed the world over and thus the one major singers are familiar with.

Svoboda's sets are so functional, yet arresting, architecturally on their own, and David Walker's costumes, so evocative without being gaudy, that it somehow seems that the milieu should fire everybody to outdo himself. This worked with Miss Obraztsova whose stunning lower register, dark without breaking from the upper, is a natural to interpret the gypsy who was born free and stayed that way until Don José put a knife into her.

She looked the part to perfection, medium-blond a gypsy whose curls were alluring along with every inch of the rest of her. As the Soviet mezzo proves in concert as well as in opera, she can sing from the top to the bottom of her register without strain. Her acting was just as spontaneous, yet her portrayal obviously came from an intuitive as well as experienced conception of the part. Miss Obraztsova is no child. Her gestures were sometimes vulgar, but always in the Carmen context. She was compelling and fascinating. When, for example, she gave the rose the Don José in Act I, she didn't throw it from a distance, she walked up to him closely, looked deep and long into his eyes, then, with a sudden gesture, dropped it to the ground before him.

Chauvet seemed to be singing under some throat restriction. He cut almost all of his phrases off brusquely instead of tapering them as a musician naturally would. His big aria indicated increased freeing of the throat, but he certainly was not at his best either as singer or actor. Morris' vibrant bass and his handsome lithe figure were eminently suited to Escamillo. Leona Mitchell as Micaela, the only familiar person in an important role, is the best I can remember. Her beautiful lyric soprano is full and rich, she sings easily and she acts with so much sincerity she makes the pure little girl who loves José more interesting than she probably is.

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