Bizet, Carmen

Carmen at the Stanislavsky tonight.

I suppose even the Stanislavsky is allowed to have off days. Musically it was fine if not special. The Micaela (Natalya Petrozhitskaya) and José (Dimitry Polkopin) were both very good. The rest of the cast was mostly middling. The Escamillo (Aleksey Shishlyayev) was rather weak-voiced. And although I find French an ugly enough language as it is, I have discovered that it is even worse when sung and spoken with thick Russian accents.

The orchestra was fine. However the audience seemed fond of clapping inappropriately. It clapped not only when the conductor came out, but also after the first note of each act. And it clapped whenever there was a fermata. And it clapped randomly at other points for no apparent reason. The conductor (Wolf Gorelik) was obviously annoyed and kept turning around on the podium to stare down the audience every time it started clapping. Oddly, he continued to conduct when he did that, with his back to the orchestra. If he had guts he would have just stopped conducting and waited for people to behave before carrying on.

The Stanislavsky does not usually do elaborate stagings, but suggestive ones. I find that their suggestive stagings generally work. However, the only explanation I have for tonight’s staging is that the director was high, and kept doing more and more of whatever drugs he was taking as he moved from act to act. For a suggestive staging, I have no idea what he was trying to suggest.

In the first act, the girls from the cigarette factory all came out wearing 19th-century undergarments. I do not think that is how even gypsies dressed to go to work in Seville back then. There seemed to be some sub-plots going on which do not appear in the text, but were put front and center. I was not sure what was happening.

The second act tavern scene cannot really be described. The (male) tavern keeper flirted with Don José, apparently to warm him up for Carmen. Then he got onto the bed (bed!?) with them, but seemed more concerned with fondling José than making it an actual threesome.

The third act is supposed to be set in a smugglers’ hideout in the mountains. This one was set at a building with a big colonnade. The smugglers appeared to be smuggling hay, which was handed down from the roof of the colonnade in bales throughout the act. Goodness knows why. The smugglers themselves were dressed like monks. This act also contained perhaps the worst-choreographed knife fight (between José and Escamillo) I have ever seen on stage. Seriously, if they want to have the two jumping around the stage and stabbing at each other for five minutes, then there must be better ways to arrange this.

In the final act, someone should explain to the director that at bullfights, the male spectators wear normal clothes (for their period in time) and the bullfighters wear bullfighting costumes, because this director had it backwards. The stands were filled with men dressed like bullfighters and women who had obviously just stepped out of a pre-revolution Goya painting. Then Escamillo and the other bullfighters arrived to fight bulls in street clothes. Then Carmen showed up dressed like a slutty secretary (a sort-of off-white business suit with lots of cleavage and a mini-skirt), and José came wearing a black suit with a white shirt and no tie. When he finally killed Carmen, he draped her over the railing. And since no one else came back out on stage, as they are supposed to at this point in the opera, I suppose his plea to be arrested was addressed to the audience. Or maybe to the conductor. Who knows.

Throughout the entire opera, they left a wind machine on in the back of the stage. This caused parts of the back of the set to blow around. The wind machine was also clearly audible whenever the music was even moderately quiet.

Oh, well. Beats sitting at home.

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