Carmen Finds Her Spotlight

It’s not very often that a lowly music critic gets the privilege of witnessing a glowing performance by a major new talent at the beginning of his or her career, but that is certainly what happened to yours truly on the evening of November 15 at the Los Angeles Opera. Viktoria Vizin, an astounding new mezzo-soprano making her L.A. Opera debut as Carmen this season, took my breath away. 



Surprisingly, the
secondary characters were universally top-drawer, the
two main standouts being Kendall Gladen's Mercedes and
Daniel Montenegro's Dancairo. Gladen possesses a
tantalizing mezzo voice -- she may prove a formidable
Carmen herself in the future -- and
Montenegro’s sweet tenor, swaggering stage presence,
and appealing good looks promise much success for him
in the coming years.

The production is
not a new one -- it’s a revival from a few years back
-- but it’s one honey of a staging that I think
begs for a permanent place in the L.A. Opera’s
repertoire. Fortunately, producer Emilio Sagi has
eschewed neurotic modernism for a colorful traditional
approach that doesn’t have its own ax to grind,
a problem found in so many modern
“conceptual” productions. But this is no
museum-piece Carmen; there are many innovations
in the staging that prove that “traditional”
need not translate as “dull.” Of particular
interest was director Javier Ulacia’s staging
of the final duet, which brooded with foreboding and
ended with a hesitant Don Jose being almost forced to stab
Carmen against his will, as if being compelled to do
so by fate. Real drama on the opera stage -- what a

Villaume’s conducting was idiomatic and energetic,
and the sets and costumes were uniformly dazzling,
many of them eliciting spontaneous applause from an
obviously delighted audience. Add to this a corps of
extremely attractive and talented flamenco dancers in the
second and fourth acts, and the result was a
performance that will live in this critic’s
memory for some time to come.

Tags: Music