Reviewed by Tony Villecco
Tri-Cities Opera has prepared a lavish and vibrant new production of Georges Bizet’s masterpiece, Carmen. A very full house Friday (Oct. 25) at The Forum witnessed a performance that was near perfect, with only some minor discrepancies. The production showcased both some very young voices and some more mature singers, bringing vigor to Bizet’s already powerful score.
As the carefree gypsy, Carmen, mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson started somewhat timidly. However, by the second act, she lit up like a firecracker. Her characterization was helped by the excellent stage direction of David Lefkowich, who kept the scenes filled with action as well as a flow for the developing drama. Costa-Jackson created a woman whose joie de vivre could destroy any man in her path. Vocally, she chose to drop some of the melodic end phrases, often speaking them, which added even more zest to her interpretation.
As her soldier lover, Don José, tenor Perry Davis Harper was vocally strong, but his ringing tone was sometimes marked by a nasal quality. He was effective both in delivering the famous Act II “Flower Song” and later when demonstrating Jose’s torment at being cast aside by Carmen for a bullfighter.
Baritone Robert Heepyoung Oh, who has become a favorite with TCO audiences, portrayed the potent and studly toreador, Escamillo. He sang with a rich and strong tone, displaying the character’s arrogance.
As Micaela, Jose’s innocent hometown girlfriend, soprano Rebecca Heath made a fine impression both vocally and through her acting. Her famous Act III aria, a show stealer, was met with the most applause of the evening.
Most of the secondary parts were cast with young singers who either are training at TCO or are Master’s in Music/Opera students at Binghamton University. Tom Curry did well as Morales while Jake Stamatis portrayed his fellow sergeant, Zuniga, with aplomb.
As Frasquita and Mercedes, Carmen’s gypsy cohorts, Melanie Leinbach and Emily Geller showed strong voices and presented a convincing and musically appealing Act III “Card Scene.” Rounding out the cast were tenor Kevin Truax and baritone Michael Celentano as the gypsy smugglers El Remendado and El Dancairo, respectively. Their Act II quintet with Carmen, Frasquita and Mercedes was a musical highlight.
Maestro Scott Bergeson led a superbly prepared orchestra that had many moments to shine. There were, however, a few times at which the singers and orchestra failed to connect.
The members of the children’s chorus acquitted themselves beautifully as did the adult all-volunteer chorus, which is given many performance opportunities in this opera.
Please note the beautiful sets by Gary C. Eckhart, the lovely effective lighting by Alan C. Edwards and the colorful flowing costumes by Elisa Richards.
Act IV was cut considerably, perhaps to lessen the length of the opera. However, that did not hinder the action or musical intent. Carmen still is a long opera — a good three to 3 1/2 hours — but the time goes quickly. The haunting music will bring you some familiar melodies as well as some dramatic outbursts. Be led into the world of the gypsies, where stealing is an honor, love is a privilege and deceit suddenly seems to be acceptable.
IF YOU GO: TCO’s second and final performance of Carmen is at 3 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 27) at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. For tickets, call 772-0400. For information, visit www.tricitiesopera.com or www.broomeforum.com.