Posts Tagged ‘Carmen’

Carmen: fast, furious, and fiery

Austin Opera continues to be an outstanding asset to Austin. The number of children in the audience at the opening performance of Carmen was astonishing; even more astonishing is that they stayed to the end and were not restless. These were elementary-school students. Perhaps they were in attendance to see and hear siblings perform in the children’s chorus, which was excellent, as was the large adult chorus.

The orchestra grows better and better and better. Under the baton of Richard Buckley, it rendered true justice to the beautiful score.

The principal singers embodied their characters well, and they sang exceptionally, solo and with other members of the cast. Austin Opera is especially fortunate to have such strong singers in the roles of Don Jose and Escamillo. It sometimes seems that the male members of a cast do not rise to the level of the female singers, but such is not at all the case in this production.

Set in Spain, the four-act opera by Georges Bizet is sung in French. Above the stage, there are supertitles in English. The translation is good and the coordination of the titles with the action on stage was always precise.

Although there was perhaps an element of almost silent-screen action in the last act, with somewhat overwrought physical action and dramatic movement, the direction of the large cast was otherwise supremely managed throughout, taking every advantage of the versatile and handsome set.

In some performance of this work, professional dancers take the stage in certain scenes, in this one the singers appeared to execute the inventive choreography themselves, and very well.

On line there’s a synopsis of the plot. Those who do not know the opera should ignore it and be drawn in by the momentum of the unfolding action.

Acts I and II last 90 minutes. A 25-minute admission is followed by acts III and IV, running 60 minutes, so that the total performance time is about three hours.

Advance tickets are available for the remaining shows: 7:30 PM, Thursday, November 16; and 2:30 PM, Sunday, November 19.

Performances are at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 West Riverside Drive. Early arrival allows enjoyment of the scenic terrace looking toward downtown.

Be warned: parking at One Texas Center that was once free, with designated spaces for Car2Go vehicles, is now behind a barrier and costs $5; a credit card must be used. Opera-goers did not know how to get in to the lot (there are bollards and drop barriers), and they did not know how to exit.

The parking annoyance, however, is no reason at all to miss this memorable production of Carmen.

Opera obstacle course

Austin Lyric OperaIt’s tough to get there these days, according to the local daily (“Weekend events overwhelm Palmer Events Center parking,” byline Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, April 22), tougher than it used to be to reach the Bass Concert Hall on campus, even though this location is closer for many. We used to eat downtown, ride the bus up the hill part of the way and walk part of the way, and then take the bus home. The only bad thing that could happen would be that a performance would run long, so that buses were off the streets, but then it was easy to walk to a downtown cab stand and catch a ride the rest of the way.

Last week, charter buses and vehicles of all sorts were delayed in reaching the new Long Center or could find no nearby parking and were very late to the Sunday matinee performance of Carmen.

ALO’s general manager fired off an e-mail blast today, declaring to ticketholders that this weekend it will be different:

I would like to assure our Thursday and Saturday night Carmen ticket holders that they will not encounter such parking difficulties. On Thursday evening there is a performance at Rollins Theater which holds 250. On Saturday there is a City Wide Garage Sale from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and the University of Phoenix Graduation Ceremony from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Palmer Events Center but both will be finished well before our 7:30 curtains.

I confess, though, that I’m suspicious, since in that same e-mail people are advised to arrive an hour early. If gridlock occurs, cabs won’t help, and it’s frightening crossing the streets around there on foot. It’s so near, and yet so far. We’re still considering the logistics.

Carmen is one of the operas most often suggested for beginners (La Traviata, Tosca, and The Elixir of Love are some others; people will argue for hours over this question). The last performance of Carmen that I attended was the wonderful event staged in the Austin Coliseum, now demolished. Even sitting on bleachers didn’t diminish the pleasure. Last-minute tickets are often available at the box office. Like it or not, the melodies from Carmen are unforgettable and you will hear people humming them as they leave the show.

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