Review of Portland Opera’s Carmen

by James Bash James Bash writes articles for a variety of publications, including magazines such as Opera America, Open Spaces, Opera, MUSO, International Arts Manager, American Record Guide, Symphony, Opera Canada, and PSU Magazine. The newspapers include Crosscut, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Oregonian, The Columbian, The Portland Tribune, The Register-Guard, and Willamette Week. James has also written a number of articles for the Oregon Arts Commission and contributed articles to the 2nd edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music.James was a fellow to the 2008 NEA Journalism Institute for Classical Music and Opera. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America (mcana.org) and lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Kathy. 12.02.2015

On Friday night (February 6) at Keller Auditorium, Sandra Piques Eddy gave one of the best performances of Carmen that anyone can possibly imagine. She captivated Portland Opera’s audience with a tantalizing combination of emotions that made Carmen absolutely bewitching. One moment, she could be playful and enticing and then sullen and calculating and then mean and derisive. Piques Eddy embodied it all with her beguiling mezzo and nuanced acting, which included flicking the ashes from her cigarette into the waiting palms of some poor schmuck. 

Photo by Cory Weaver of Sandra Piques Eddy as Carmen

In the role of Don José, Chad Shelton’s voice started out a little tight, but it became more expansive as his character became more and more desperate to win Carmen’s love. He convincingly went berserk in the final scene, escalating from stalker to threatener to slasher.

Eric Greene’s Escamillo flaunted his bull fighting stature with gusto but his voice sounded bottled up at times. One of his best moves came in the tavern scene when he jumped from a table and landed on the floor like a cat on the prowl.

Jennifer Forni created a superb Micaëla, singing with tenderness and beauty when conveying the letter from Don José’s mother to him and making her pitch for marriage. Later her voice supported Micaëla's steely nerves as she followed the gypsies to their mountain campsite.

Jeffrey G. Beruan commanded the stage as the serious and overly confident Zuniga, and José Rubio’s Morales lightened things up a bit with his dalliances with available women. Alexander Elliott and Ian José Ramirez created two swaggering smugglers. Katrina Galka and Angela Niederloh were flirty and energetic gypsy girls in the roles of Frasquita and Mercédès. Their voices blended perfectly in the quintet, “Quand il s’agit” with Elliott, Ramirez, and Pasques Eddy in the tavern scene.

The opera chorus sang lustily and the orchestra, conducted by George Manahan, played ardently.

Erick Einhorn’s directions had a lot going on. The children, for example, gleefully tromped about and lightly mocked the soldiers. A lot of pistols and rifles were used in this production. They seemed to come out of nowhere whenever the gypsies felt threatened. It underscored Einhorn’s vision of the violent culture of the gypsies as did their harsh treatment of Zuniga. Carmen’s rope-a-dope reversal on Don José’ was flawless.

Two flamenco dancers, Glenda Sol Koeraus and Antonio Granjero, cut up a storm, but the brief sequence on top of the table in the tavern unfortunately drummed out the singing of Pasques Eddy.

The production, from Opera Omaha with scenery created by Paul Shortt originally for New York City Opera, was traditional, but the mountain scenery was the most striking with its iron-grey cliff and sky, cold campfires, and tall archway with a broken cross or wheel of fate at the apex. It created a sense of impending doom that led to the final tragic sequence between Carmen and Don José.



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