Carmen at UBCUBC Opera
Carmen by Georges Bizet, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy

Dates and Venue 22-30 June @ 7.30 pm | Old Auditorium, UBC

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

UBC Opera closed their season with a lively and dramatic Carmen.

Leslie Dala conducted a reduced orchestra which sounded a little thin at first but soon resolved into fine support for young voices and well-balanced sound for the Old Auditorium. The curtain went up on a scene redolent of the languid squares of Seville where off-duty soldiers lounge outside their barracks. As the guard changed and the cigarette-factory girls took their break the stage was chock-a-block with activity, complete with an energetic children’s chorus cheering the soldiers on. The change in mood was deftly handled by the chorus which was solidly reliable all evening whether soldiers or smugglers, Gypsies or town girls.

Many fine voices graced the first night cast. Natascia Dell’erba’s (Micaëla) warm and generous soprano was confident and secure throughout her range with a beautiful tone expressive of deep feeling which made this unfashionable good girl role a sympathetic character.

Julia Rooney and Christina Kent as Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercedes were feisty and alluring, clearly relishing their roles. Geoffrey Schellenberg’s Lieutenant Zuniga had a good stage presence complementing an excellent bass voice. Smugglers Dancairo and Remendado (baritone Alireza Mojibian and tenor Sungsan Oh respectively) were mild-mannered ruffians but sang well. Kyle Lehmann cut a fine figure as the dashing Escamillo and, despite not having a strong voice, gave a well-executed rendition of the famous “Toreador Song”.

Kwangmin Brian Lee (Don Jose) gained confidence as the opera progressed. Possessed of a velvety tenor with a pleasing timbre, he was restrained in the early scenes, but grew with each act. Once the story had progressed to Don Jose’s unambiguous jealousy, he was grimly impassioned and, finally as he killed her, tragic

Emma Parkinson’s Carmen was a tour de force. Fascinating, seductive and mocking, from the opening notes of “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”, she portrayed a woman perfectly satisfied with her free-spirited existence. She has a luscious mezzo voice capable of subtle turns of emotion and considerable stamina. Despite throwing herself with vivacity into her long role, she had considerable energy and emotion left for her final scenes when in their last fight she ran at Don Jose like a bull at a toreador.

Nancy Hermiston’s spirited direction kept the action moving at a good pace and was always aware of the music. Lighting design by Jeremy Baxter and sets by Carolyn Rapanos were well-thought-out, straight-forward and effective. Projections suffered a few first night glitches but were otherwise apt and attractive.

© 2013 Elizabeth Paterson