A Convincing Production of Carmen Returns to the Liceu

SpainSpain Bizet: Carmen, Liceu Orchestra and Chorus, Ainara Rubikis (conductor), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 2.5.2015 (JMI)


Barcelona Carmen Photo Credit: A. Bofill

Carmen: Beatrice Uria-Monzon
Don Jose: Nikolai Schukoff
Micaela: Evelyn Novak
Escamillo: Massimo Cavalletti
Zuniga: Giovanni Battista Parodi
Morales: Alex Sanmartí
Mercedes: Itxaro Mentxaka
Frasquita: Nuria Villa
Dancaire: Marc Canturri
Remendado: Francisco Vas


Production: Barcelona’s Liceu in coproduction with Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, Torino’s Teatro Regio and Venice’s La Fenice
Direction: Calixto Bieito (original)
Susana Gómez (revival)
Sets: Alfons Flores
Costumes: Mercè Paloma
Lighting: Alberto Rodríguez

It has been almost five years since Carmen was last performed at the Liceu. The Liceu management have programmed just six performances with one cast, and they may regret not scheduling more: the house has been sold out every day.

This Calixto Bieito staging was premiered at the Festival of Peralada in 1999, and since then it has travelled throughout Europe. I think it’s an excellent production, one of the best Carmens to be seen nowadays. I had the opportunity to review it five years ago, and my opinion continues to be absolutely positive: http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2010/Jul-Dec10/Carmen_3009.htm

Patrick Fournillier had been announced as music director, but he cancelled and was replaced by the young Latvian conductor Ainara Rubikis. My overall impression of the latter is positive, although I found him a little short on energy, except in the last act where he did his best conducting. The orchestra’s performance confirmed the improvement they’ve been making. As for the chorus, I must say that this opera and this production hold no secrets for them, but the overall situation with the group seems rather problematic. After a few months as chorus master, Peter Burian has left; Conxita Garcia has taken his place – I guess as an interim position. One must remember that the chorus has been one of the great assets of this theatre in recent years.

Carmen was sung by French mezzo soprano Beatrice Uria-Monzon, whose stage work is hard to beat, although vocally things are not at the same excellent level. She is a real expert in the role, and has performed it several times in this same production. Overall, she is a very convincing Carmen

Don José was interpreted by Austrian tenor Nikolai Schukoff, who offered a voice well-suited to the character. Although his vocal characteristics make him better equipped for the last two acts of the opera, the truth is that he had some problems and gave the impression of being tired. The Flower Song was not very good and ended on a B flat in falsetto. It was not an accident, because four years ago I heard him do the same thing in Valladolid with Magdalena Kozena.

I have rarely seen a Micaela who was not acclaimed by the public. I dare say that the soprano who cannot succeed in the character should start thinking about changing jobs. Croatian soprano Evelyn Novak triumphed with this audience, but I do not share the verdict. Her singing seemed to me rather irregular, and her voice is not particularly attractive.

Massimo Cavalletti was Escamillo, and I found him coarser than I expected, with too many open sounds.

Itxaro Mentxaka is an expert in the part of Mercedes and especially in this production. I did not particularly like the voice of Nuria Villa as Frasquita. Francisco Vas as Remendado was excellent, as usual. Marc Canturri was persuasive as Dancaire, and so was Alex Sanmartí in the role of Morales, but Giovanni Battista Parodi was a rather coarse Zuniga.

José M. Irurzun


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