The Boston Lyric Opera has left its long-time, unsatisfactory home in Boston’s Shubert Theater. This season each production will be mounted in a different space, and the Boston Globe reports that BLO has joined some other local theatrical groups to bid for ongoing use of the fine Colonial Theater (now owned by Emerson College) when it is restored and reopens in a year or so—seems an outcome to be wished for. Meanwhile, BLO has started its current season with Bizet’s Carmen in the Opera House on Washington Street, once home to Sarah Caldwell’s highly creative Opera Company of Boston, in recent years home of the Boston Ballet and site of a never-ending stream of very popular traveling Broadway musical productions. The Opera House is a grand space with good acoustics, a broad stage, sizeable orchestra pit, and adequate lobby space on two levels. It is good to see and hear opera staged here once again.
If Carmen is a femme fatale, then her opera could play as a kind of hybrid of an Anthony Mann western and film noir. It has the gun runners and even a climactic fight on a rocky crag, but also the weak man haunted by his past, falling in love with the woman he later remembers he doesn’t particularly like. Micaëla would be the innocent girl he really loves, but in trying to protect her from himself, just draws her into his disastrous life. This production, however, is different. Carmen becomes as sympathetic as one could imagine, with no material desires, she loves only freedom but to the point of self-banishment, to paraphrase John Donne. At least, she is sympathetic in contrast with a Don José who is an extreme introvert, more haunted and broken than weak, who eventually succumbs to insanity. Carmen is a rather extreme extrovert which brings its own problems, and the concept of opposites attracting is played convincingly: the pair’s initial mutual fascination and affection becomes binding and they continuously rub each-other the wrong way until they mutually annihilate.
Kara Cornell, who sang and acted such a brilliant Carmen at Hubbard Hall last summer, and I recently shared a pleasant Australian blend at the Wine Bar on Lark in Albany, where we reminisced about Carmen—actually Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, and talked about next summer’s production, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, in which, as Hansel, she will make a total about face from the dangerous gypsy. Considering Kara’s vivid and very funny Cherubino in the Capital Opera’s Nozze di Figaro last summer, she should be equally successful as the pre-pubescent wood-cutter’s boy. Knowing stage director Dianna Heidman’s sophistication and originality, I can foresee that Hansel and Gretel will go well beyond the usual family entertainment.