Monday, October 24, 2011

"Carmen" the Singing Shark

On Saturday evening Mighty Reader and I attended Georges Bizet's Carmen as performed by Seattle Opera. It was swell. Who doesn't love bel canto opera? Well, lots of people but I ignore them for now.

Carmen is a popular work because it's got great tunes and a tragic storyline about misplaced affection. It's also not really about the character Carmen so much as it's about one of her short-term lovers, Don Jose. Carmen is to Carmen what the shark is to Jaws: not the protagonist, but a single-minded predator wrecking destruction all around her. But that's not important; one doesn't attend opera for the stories, one goes for the music and the spectacle and Seattle Opera doesn't disappoint.

Mighty Reader and I sat way way up in the upper balcony (we had great orchestra seats for Porgy and Bess and I worried that sitting 100 feet up would make everything--the cast, the sets, the sound--seem tiny and distant) but McCaw Hall has wonderful acoustics and the orchestra and cast (except perhaps the Toreador, whose singing was often lost in the sound of the orchestra) projected up into the not-really-all-that-cheap-seats. The dance sequences are great, especially the dream sequence that opens Act III. So it was a good time, and we're looking forward to Verdi's Attila in January and Gluck's Orpheus in March. We remain undecided about the Puccini, but probably I'll get a pair of tickets at some point, because who doesn't want to hear Madama Butterfly live?

A word about McCaw Hall, though: someone (anyone) needs to redesign the public areas. The performance hall is fine. The building itself is very fine from the outside (note Space Needle peeking over top of the Hall):

But the galleries are really frightful. Whose idea was it to use these thick acrylic toilet lids as bistro tables:


  1. The Gluck is so good. Also, short, which I found to be a relief. Opera seasons can wear a fella out.

  2. Yeah, with dressing, travel, dinner and the 3.5-hour show, opera is a serious time commitment. I can't imagine anyone going to more than 4 or 5 a year. I'm looking forward to the Gluck, though I know I've got a weird conflation in my head of Gluck's version with that of Offenbach. And hey, Seattle Opera, why don't you put on Offenbach's Orpheus next year?

    I haven't heard a note of the Verdi; I manfully resist familiarizing myself with it before the show. I'm going to let myself be surprised.

  3. I am not a fan of opera in general (don't care much for operatic singing though I love choral music of all types) but I have to say Puccini can sure write melodies that tug at the heart.

    Never heard Carmen compared to a shark before. I like it.

  4. The thing about opera is that you can't take it seriously if you really want to enjoy it. Though Mozart did amazing formal things with opera that I have to respect, and Haydn's work with opera did good things for his work in other forms (especially the arrangement of keys from movement to movement). But yeah: Puccini! Butterfly isn't as pretty as Tosca or La Boheme, but it's what's showing this year.

    Carmen is totally the antagonist of Carmen. Don Jose is a doofus, but it's his story.