reviewed by Paula Citron
Canadian Opera Company
Composed by Georges Bizet
Conducted by Rory Macdonald
Directed by Justin Way
Starring Rinat Shaham, Bryan Hymel, Jessica Muirhead, Paul Gay, Alain Coulombe, Teiya Kashahara, Lauren Segal, Justin Welsh, Adam Luther and Alexander Hajek
At the Four Seasons until Feb. 27
The COC’s revival of Carmen suffers from dull staging. Australian director Justin Way has no imagination when it comes to crowds. The intimate scenes work better more so because of the singers than the staging. He also ignores the text. Escamillo’s torchlight parade has no torches.
Musically, the opera is strong. From the first downbeat, Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald proves he understands the score and its dramatic journey. One can get lost in his music.
The two leads also live their roles. Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham has the rich, throaty voice Carmen needs, while American tenor Bryan Hymel is comfortable in the high register. Both are passionate actors. Jessica Muirhead as Micaëla has more bite than usual. The weak link is French bass-baritone Paul Gay as Escamillo whose singing is breathy and uneven. The rest of the large cast is very strong.
My advice is close your eyes and listen.
Carmen continues at the Four Seasons Centre until Feb. 27.