L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle

Opera time again?  Already?  Well, I suppose I haven’t been feeling quite inadequate enough as a reviewer lately, so why the Hell not dive off the deep end into something I’m wholly unqualified to write about?  At least I get to dress up nice for the occasion.

Last nite’s bit of high-class musical mayhem from Opera Lyra was CARMEN by George Bizet, a French opera set in Spain, because Culture!  The tale starts out in Seville, where a gaggle of soldiers are doing some people-watching when doe-eyed Micaela arrives in search of Corporal Don Jose.  She brings the proud Momma’s boy news from his beloved mother, as well as her written instructions that he get a move on with settling down by making an honest woman out of Micaela.  Jose likes this idea just fine, and that really should have been that.


But then the Factory Girls arrived.  And everything went to merry Hell.  Because amongst the gals of the local cigarette concern is Carmen, aka the worst woman in the world.   And I’m barely joking, she’s really very awful, but she’s spectacularly good at it.  A wicked dancer, unparallelled temptress, and not afraid to toss a few punches around when necessary, she sets about seducing Don Jose, possibly out of sheer ennui, and he falls for her hook, line and sinker. Which is a somewhat reckless move, coming as it does on the heels of Carmen singing a song specifically about what a terrible idea it is to fall in love with her. Next thing you know, he’s doing thirty days in the pokey for letting her escape from arrest for starting a brawl, while his commanding officer Zuniga is trying to put his own moves on her.  Eventually, Carmen and Don Jose get together, but within minutes they’re on the lam, joining up with Carmen’s band of gypsies to move some purloined goods.  And I haven’t even MENTIONED the matador.

CARMEN is considered one of the classics in opera, and it sure is a heckuva lotta fun.  Don Jose and Carmen make for maybe the unhealthiest romance in opera history…which is saying something for a medium in which something like 95% of relationships end in death.  The production is a beauty, with the expected parade of lush costumes, towering setpieces, and the rather handy NAC Orchestra front and center.  Opera Lyra has assembled another smashing cast with what I can only assume are superhuman singing abilities, because I sure as shoot know I couldn’t hit those notes.  The positively gorgeous Alessandra Volpe stars as Carmen (or Carmencita), making for a very convincing and bewitching leading lady and taking no guff from any man, and belting out a whole lotta smashing tunes to boot.  Which is pretty crucial in a show like this, where even utter opera newbies like me will recognize half the songs.  I’ll let Ms.Callas and friends explain that for me, better than I could:

David Pomeroy gives his Don Jose a terrific human quality, as well as booming pipes…you just want to smack the poor lug and tell him to get back to his Mom where he belongs!  His boss Zuniga, aka Alain Coulombe, has great thundering bass presence, which is my kinda range.  And now I WILL mention the matador, aka Escamillo, aka Corey Crider, who storms in like a hybrid pop star/NFL quarterback and commands all attention to him, with another incredible rendition of another classic song.  But I gotta agree with my galpal of the evening Rebecca, that Lara Ciekiewicz’ Micaela damn near stole the show, setting the place on fire with her voice.  It was a dynamite performance indeed, in a night of dynamite performances.  And a shout-out to the kids, Opera Lyra’s gang of onstage youth who added great spark to act I, especially in an amazing sequence where they mimicked the arriving and outgoing soldiers, to great comic effect.  Kudos, kids.

What else can I say..? Lyra knows them some opera, and it shows.  If you can snag a ticket, and have the itch for some stunning musical theatre, this would be your bet.  Worked for me…even if I was getting a tad sleepy by the end, but that’s only on account of it being a long, late show that fell in between my weekend brunch shifts.  Plan your evening accordingly, and strap in for a helluva fun show.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

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