A look at the Vancouver Opera’s Carmen
By Brittney MacDonald, Staff Writer
Carmen is the classic operatic love story of a man sacrificing everything for the woman he adores, based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée. I was fortunate to see the Vancouver Opera’s rendition of this production.
Don Jose, played by tenors Richard Troxell and Christopher Magiera, is a corporal of dragoons in the Spanish army. He falls madly in love with the dangerous but beautiful gypsy woman, Carmen, played by mezzo sopranos Ginger Costa-Jackson and Kate Aldrich, in her last performance for the Vancouver Opera.
The couple meet only once before Don Jose is ordered to take Carmen to prison after she attacks and mutilates a co-worker in a tobacco factory. But having fallen madly in love (or maybe it’s lust) with her, he is convinced to release her, and that they will then be together. Don Jose does so and lands himself in prison for aiding her escape.
When he gets out, he makes the decision to court Carmen, but her jealousy over his devotion to his work forces him to desert the army in order to satisfy her demands. Ashamed and now publicly wanted for his desertion, Don Jose follows Carmen’s travelling band of gypsies until his own jealousy of her rather promiscuous lifestyle puts a strain on their relationship, and Carmen’s eye begins to wander.
Director Joel Ivany deviated from the traditional tale by resetting the plot in the 1930s instead of the 1800s. This has very little effect on the overall narrative, except that instead of the persecution of the church we can only assume that Carmen’s gypsy band is attempting to avoid the Nazis. It’s never specifically stated why the gypsies and Don Jose have to travel in secrecy.
Though it may not detract from the actual story, the new setting does remove the need for elaborate costumes, which was a bit of a disappointment. Usually Carmen features a plethora of traje de flamenca, the traditional costume of female flamenco dancers, but with the opera reset the dresses are more understated.
Performed in its original French, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre offers a scrolling screen of subtitles so the audience can enjoy the show, but not miss out on any of the numerous jokes or epic fights between Carmen and Don Jose, or Carmen and Lieutenant Zuniga, or Carmen and pretty much everybody.
Another great feature, especially for students, is the Vancouver Opera’s Get O.U.T. discount program to help entice a younger audience. A select number of seats are set aside and available for $35 each for anyone under 35 years of age. The catch is that you have to follow their Facebook, Twitter, or the official Vancouver Opera blog in order to get the promotional code, which you enter before you purchase the tickets online. Keep in mind the Get O.U.T. tickets are limited, so it’s best to buy early.
Overall the production still had all the amazing music and romance, despite the change in scenery. It was definitely a production worth seeing, and I look forward to more from the Vancouver Opera’s upcoming season, especially now that I know I don’t have to break the bank to afford it.