Loew streams Carmen from New York

by Tatiana Cooke | 8/2/10 10:00pm

The Metropolitan Opera's Carmen is simulcast live at Loew Auditorium.

Sex, racism and betrayal were brought to the screen of Loew Auditorium during Friday night's simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera's Carmen. Engrossing and powerful, Carmen highlighted themes of gender dynamics and political corruption.

The opera, which previously recorded at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, tells the story of the sultry gypsy, Carmen, who seduces a soldier named Don Jos and convinces him to betray his superior officers and flee civilization to join her smuggler clan. Carmen eventually tires of Jos and abandons him for the star bullfighter Escamillo.

Director Richard Eyre has revived the play from its traditional setting of the 1830s in Seville to take place in Spain in the 1930s, with touches of an oppressive civil war regime. This change adds an underlying sense of unrest and insinuates a darker tone even during happier scenes.

Elina Garcana's captivating performance as Carmen made the show into a genuinely riveting interpretation. Though the show runs almost three hours, when Garcana is on screen the minutes fly by. Despite her poor choices in love, Garcana's Carmen is inspires the audience by her joie de vivre.

Roberto Alagna did well with his vocal responsibilities in the role of Don Jos, but his stiff acting and slow-witted demeanor made it difficult to imagine what Garcana's smart, witty Carmen could possibly see in him. Teddy Tahu Rhodes carried off a more believable suitor with tangible swagger as the toreador Escamillo.

Eyre succeeded at bringing several modern themes to the foreground of the opera, but certain characters like the pious wife Micaela still appeared one-dimensional.

Highlights included choreographed dances throughout the performance and a ballet interlude preceding the third act. Yannick Nezet-Seguin was a lively conductor and made the classic score jump to life. The large cast of extras prevented the stage from appearing stagnate and gave crowded scenes an authentic energy.

This showing is a part of the Hopkins Center for the Arts' Metropolitan Opera Summer Encore series which has brought Metropolitan Opera performances such as La Boheme and Turandot to campus.

While the simulcast can't truly replicate the experience of a real-time performance, the high quality of the projection did conserve some of the intimacy of attending a live show.

The perspective of the camera varied from long shots to close ups to overhead angles in a style that kept the viewer involved but became occasionally distracting. Tight shots of scenes that would normally be seen from afar also made some of the actors' dramatic gestures appear overly exaggerated. However, these minor details did not excessively detract from the viewers' experience, and the projection was a surprisingly effective imitation of a night at the opera.

Live opera is one of the few types of performance absent from the Hop's annual calendar and this series of simulcasts comes extremely close to the real thing.

Anyone with an interest in great music and compelling characters should take time during the Fall term to see at least a few acts of the next round of operas.

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the opera was streamed live, when in fact it was a recording of a previous performance. Additionally, the role of Escamillo was sung by Teddy Tahu Rhodes, instead of Mariusz Kwiecien, as originally stated.