It’s Act III.
The famed and ever-so-sweet harp and flute duet seemed to linger in the air like a most pleasing perfume. It welcomed the rest of the orchestra to tiptoe softly into sharing the same moment. The stage is dark, save a round zoomed moon illusion on the horizon peeking out between two craggy mountains.
Slowly, ever so slowly, dawn lights tune in…
We see that some of the contours on the mountain are people, not rock formations. These are the revolutionaries, hiding their smuggling operations in the mountains. They merge with the landscape as a frame to the painful flame-out scenes in which Carmen (mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges), the title character, rebuffs her one-time love interest, Don José (tenor Charles Castronovo).
Lyric Opera Stages CARMEN with Perfect Touch
Lush as the music, lighting design, and set are in this Lyric Opera production opening to Act III of Bizet’s Carmen, they are always secondary to Carmen’s live-free-or-die character. She is the wild bird of love, un oiseau rebelle, that J’nai Bridges sings of when she makes her grand entrance in Act I. From a workplace brawl to one or another love of short duration, and her enduring choice to live on the wild side, Carmen is both mistress of and mastered by her passions. Without opera glasses, most of us in the audience can’t see Bridges’ eyes flare, but we know they often do. It takes only one hip pivot to suggest to this reviewer that Bridges was born to play this role.
The moon and mountainscape opening to Act III is but one moment of many when Lyric’s skillful confection of stagecraft, superb acting, and vocal performance highlight this exquisite opera score, in this writer’s opinion. We are transported from the very first moment — when the ensemble in a freeze frame of shadow comes alive in a light’s blink — to the story’s end, when Carmen is stabbed like the wild bull in the arena off stage. Along the way, the audience especially revels in South African soprano Golda Schultz’s aria as she sings the part of Carmen’s foil, the good girl Micaëla, eliciting bravas and loud applause of appreciation. As ever, it takes only one glance at the almost sepia-toned program book image of Castronovo to know you are going to get a classic performance. Uniting Voices Chicago (formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir) also bring their angelic sound to this production. Choreographer Stephanie Martinez has a goldilocks touch, spicing the story with dance moves that never cross a line into distracting from the story’s arc.
You, too, will likely leave the opera hall with a walking-on-air lilt to your step.
Carmen is a top pick for opera newbies and diehards alike.
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Moralès - Ian Rucker+
Micaëla - Golda Schultz
Don José - Charles Castronovo•
Zuniga - Wm. Clay Thompson••
Carmen - J’Nai Bridges•
Frasquita - Denis Vélez•
Mercédès - Katherine DeYoung+
Escamillo - Andrei Kymach•
Lillas Pastia - Alejandro Luévanos•
Dancaïre - Laureano Quant+•
Remendado - Ryan Capozzo
Conductor - Henrik Nánási
Director - Marie Lambert-Le Bihan
Set Designer - Robin Don
Costume Designer - Robert Perdziola
Lighting Designer - Chris Maravich
Chorus Master - Michael Black
Children’s Chorus Master - Josephine Lee
Choreographer - Stephanie Martinez++
Assistant Choreographer - Noelle Kayser+
Ballet Mistress - August Tye
Wigmaster & Sarah Makeup Designer - Hatten
Assistant Directors - Jordan Lee Braun
Stage Manager - Sandra Zamora
Stage Band Conductor - Stefano Sarzani
Musical Preparation - Susan Miller Hult
Ballet Accompanist - Greg Smith
Prompter - Susan Miller Hult
Fight Director - Nick Sandys
Intimacy Director - Samantha Kaufman
Projected English Titles - Scott A. Heumann
MARCH 11. 2023 - APRIL 07. 2023
Lyric Opera House
20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 860
Chicago, IL 60606
This story has been added to the Picture This Post roundup article on OPERAS WE LOVE.
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About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.