Thespec, Aug 15 2012
Bizét: Carmen, Salzburger Festspiele, 14. August 2012
Boo-birds sing for Salzburg’s Carmen
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA Euro crisis? What euro crisis? Certainly not at the Salzburg Festival. Sure, around town you can see that things are kind of muted. Some of the shops and restaurants have changed owners. Some shop windows are advertising merchandise at 50 per cent off. And there are fewer tourists milling about on the historic and picturesque Getreidegasse on which Mozart’s birth house nevertheless remains a good magnet.

But with top ducats for this evening’s sold out performance of Carmen in the Grosses Festspielhaus going for a mere €400--the same price for the equally entirely sold out runs of La Bohème, as well as The Magic Flute in the Felsenreitschule, but slightly more than the top €300 ducat for Sunday’s concert performance of Handel’s Tamerlano with Placido Domingo --you’ve got to say that at the Salzburg Festival, there’s no such thing as a Euro crisis. OK, OK. There were tickets for €25 as well, with six other price categories in between that and the top ticket, not including a special price for wheelchair patrons.

So, what did the 2,197 Grosses Festspielhaus patrons get for their Euros at the August 14 opening night performance of Bizet’s Carmen, a co-production with Madrid’s Teatro Real and the Salzburg Easter Festival?

Quite a bit, actually. But let’s begin with the husband and wife team of Sir Simon Rattle leading the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the pit and Magdalena Kozena as La Carmencita.

Rattle brought out the flair in Bizet’s score, judiciously choosing his tempos with the singers in mind. Only in the ending of the third act were there moments when he allowed the orchestra to cover the singers.

Kozena, on the other hand, was an all too serious Carmen, exuding little to no sensuality in the role. Her performance brought out the boo-birds in the Grosses Festspielhaus. She took it all gracefully, smiling as she acknowledged those who did applaud.

Jonas Kaufmann was applauded to the rafters as Don José. With all of the singing he is doing in Salzburg this summer, it’s not surprising to hear that his voice is beginning to show small signs of wear.

Lithuanian bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas had difficulty getting through Escamillo’s Toreador song. At intermission, he was announced as indisposed due to a flare-up of his allergies. He continued to act on stage, but the role was from then on sung from the proscenium by Massimo Cavalletti (the Marcello in Salzburg’s La Bohème), who, to borrow a baseball term, hit a pinch-hit home run.

Christina Landshamer and Rachel Frenkel were adorable as Frasquita and Mercédès respectively, dressed as identical blonde-haired twins.

Home town gal Genia Kuehmeier was simply splendid as the homely Micaëla, her voice displaying a seamlessness from top to bottom.

The remaining roles were taken handily. The Vienna State Opera Chorus lent the proceedings a full-bodied flavor, while the Salzburg Festival and Theatre Children’s Chorus was also top drawer.

A 21-member dance team contributed much to this production’s Spanish atmosphere.

However, the production team of director Aletta Collins, set designer Miriam Buether, costumer Gabrielle Dalton, and lighting director Andreas Fuchs received many boos, unjustly so, for their efforts.


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