Upgraded Uggle-Carin (Carmen) Better Than Ever

SwedenSweden Bizet, Uggle-Carin (Carmen): Soloists, Dala-Floda Opera Chorus, Children’s Chorus, Dancers, Orchestra / Alexander Nordwall (conductor), Strandbacken Folkets Park, Dala-Floda, Dalecarlia. 6.8.2017. (GF)

Mathias Zachariassen and Paulina Pfeiffer as Jona and Uggle-Carin
Mathias Zachariassen (Jona) & Paulina Pfeiffer (Uggle-Carin) (c) Göran Forsling

Uggle-Carin – Paulina Pfeiffer
Jona – Mathias Zachariassen
Eskil Nilsson – Caspar Engdahl
Mikael – Joel Forsström
Flo-Rita – Emma Frost
Myr-Elin – Karolina Åsberg
Dans-Ida – Julia Mattei
Dån-Kalle – Erik Johansson
Rallar-Danne – John Haque
Lantz – Oskar Olofson
Liljan Pärsson – Stina Lindberg

Direction – Lotta Lindqvist
Costumes – Nils Harning
Lighting design – Erik Johansson
Sets – Anders Wirén
Choreography – Helena Lambert
Arrangements – Jonas Dominique

Uggle-Carin, Bizet’s Carmen transported to Dalecarlia in Sweden, was a tremendous success last year in Dala-Floda, and it was only logical to reprise it this year – and even better it was this time! For full description of the background, I refer readers to my review published in 2016. The main concept is unchanged, but director Lotta Lindqvist has done some trimming and tidying up, resulting in an easier flow of the drama, higher dramatic temperature, faster pulse and fewer longueurs. Most notable is the shorter fiddle and folkdance scene at the beginning, which seemed endless before, but the director decided to make several other cuts and changes as well.

Most of the cast from last year is retained, with Paulina Pfeiffer and Mathias Zachariassen even more intense in their love-hate relation. Mathias was so deeply involved in the last act that it took him quite some time to get out of the role and find himself at the curtain calls. The closeness between stage and audience is so tight – the actors literally act at arm’s length from the first row – that the onlookers cannot defend themselves against being drawn into the action. Vocally both singers were in top shape. And one of the highlights was the scene at the inn when Uggle-Carin dances for Jona, while he plays a fiddle tune – Mathias is a brilliant fiddler!

Mikael – yes, Micaela is a young man – is new. Joel Forsström was slightly strained by the high tessitura of the third act aria but he acted convincingly. Last year Caspar Engdahl made a great impression as Lantz, Morales and Zuniga in one person. This year he has been upgraded to Eskil Nilsson (Escamillo) and with his dashing appearance, charisma and powerful voice he was the epitome of the he-man who overpowers both women and bulls – and in this case, the log jam in the river. He seems cut out for a great career and I will soon see and hear him in the title role of Don Giovanni. Watch this space!

His role of last year, Lieutenant Lantz, was well sung by Oskar Olofson, less demonic than Caspar but exuding supercilious arrogance. With one exception, the smugglers were the same as before, a closely united team. There is a new innkeeper as well, Stina Lindberg, who acted with great authority.

In the orchestra, there were several new names and new conductor, Alexander Nordwall. The folk dancers – Floda Hupplekare (hupplek is a traditional dance, a forerunner to polska) – conveyed joy and warmth from the beginning, and as before a considerable number of extras filled the arena. In fact, most of the inhabitants in Dala-Floda contribute to the opera festival in one way or other.

Last year’s Uggle-Carin was excellent, but this year’s version is even better!

Göran Forsling

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