Every so often, I actually am able to get out and take in some real culture. Believe it or not, I really like that. I like to go to places where I am woefully underdressed – in my ratty trench coat, cargo pants and plain tee shirt – and see what life would be like if I were some poncy rich person. But that wasn’t why I was at this show. I was at this one because my cousin’s husband was in this opera. He’s a talented guy, and I am glad that he’s putting his talent to use. One of my button issues is when I see talent not being used. It’s like a muscle. Don’t use it and it atrophies. Can’t have that. So, he got me a ticket for the show, and I was stoked because without that, I wouldn’t have gone at all. With that in mind, let’s talk about the opera by Bizet.
The plot tells the story of a young temptress named Carmen, and her seduction of a young soldier named Don Jose. As is typical in any great opera, it is a story of love, loss, and tragic death. I’d say spoiler alert, but come on. You all know what this was. Anyone who knows opera knows that it’s either comedic, tragic, or the germanic operas that Lord of the Rings took a lot of inspiration. In other words, it’s either tragic or comedic. This is the former. The plot really isn’t why people come to see these things anyway, so let’s talk about the nitty-gritty.
For starters, I like the minimalist sets that they had. It makes sense, considering this opera takes place in four acts, and each act is in a profoundly different place. Plus, there was some expert use of lighting. Good lighting can make all the difference, and this time they had a clever use of lighting behind the sets to help set the mood even more. Not bad, my good sirs and madams.
Next ups, there were the costumes. Props to the people they had working on this! No joke, this was really something! Of course, the thing that people pay the most attention to are the dresses. Carmen was definitely looking her best through this entire performance. But I liked some of the other attire. Such as the soldiers uniforms. Who knew that yellow could make for a good uniform color? I certainly didn’t. But it was set in Spain, so that’s how it goes. Though the music is all in French. Weird, huh? My French is rusty as fuck, but so much of the verbiage was in French that I couldn’t help but taken notice, even if I didn’t know all the words all the time. Lastly, there was the matador and his attire. This guy looked great! I get that all bullfighters were basically performers, but I got why he would catch people’s eyes. All this, however, is totally beside the point. It’s an opera. The thing that everyone wants to hear about is the performances. It’s where all operas get all their strength or detraction. So, what’s there to be said about that? Quite a bit, actually.
I feel kind of bad for the guy who sang the part of Don Jose. He was REALLY putting his all into this, and it definitely told. I gotta give this guy props, even if I am now about to say something that is detracting. As hard as this guy tried to throw every bit of heart and soul that he could, he was simply overshadowed, by the two characters who absolutely stole this show.
The first was Carmen, performed by Audrey Babcock. Holy shit! Not only did this woman have AMAZING presence, but her performance was a cut above the rest. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The aforementioned cousin’s husband told me that she’s done this role roughly 30 times! Well, props to Anchorage Opera, they’ve got an eye for talent. This woman owned this role so thoroughly, and created a character that is both seductive and foul at the same time. You love her, you hate her, and everything in-between. This role was the one that made this entire show work. Makes sense, given that her character’s name is in the title, but hot damn! You could have had the cast not be there and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Next, there was the gentleman who played Escamillo (the matador), Guido LeBron. If there is one thing about this performance, it is that I really felt like this is a guy that I would like. There was something about this character that was so enjoyable to listen to. It’s like some dude who you would LOVE to have a beer with. He’s boisterous, a braggart, and totally in love with himself. But he isn’t a total dick about it. He can play to the crowd, have fun, and takes little personally. There is a scene where he even admits that he wants to be with Carmen for the pure purpose of distraction. But he plays it off so casually so as to tell her – this isn’t permanent, sugar, so don’t go getting too attached. No wonder she found his company so enjoyable. They were both looking for something from one-another, and both of them found it.
If there is one thing that I can say didn’t work about this opera, it’s the climax. At the end, you have the ruined and lost Don Jose having tracked Carmen down and meaning to confront her for the last time. It starts off very well. However, maybe it was the stuff going on in the background, or the fact that the background stuff and the music felt kind of distracting, but the tragic side of the story seemed to get very lost in how quickly Don Jose stabbed her and she was dead. Like, you could blink and you’d miss it. That was a little bit odd, and left me feeling – did it end? That was quick. However, that is just me being a total nit-picky douche. To my credit, it’s what I do. Part of why I’m sure you all enjoy what I put out there.
This was an excellent performance, and everyone involved should be proud of their work. Ironic moment – there was the scene where the audience gets to meet Carmen for the first time, but I couldn’t help but be transfixed by this stunningly pale blonde. Carmen is beautiful, but my tastes will always get in the way. Perhaps I just couldn’t be beguiled by her charms. In any case, great show, and everyone involved should be proud. It’s too late to see it now, but here is my review all the same. Take it for what you will.
8 out of 10