A little-heralded screening of a great opera, Georges Bizet’s Carmen, played Clarksville Thursday evening, the first of four British productions that will air in the next three weeks. Carmen was, in a word, “stunning.”
The Carmike 10 at Governor’s Square Mall did little advertising of this show, staged at Covent Garden with the London Symphony. Every one in the sparsely filled theater had the same comment: “We didn’t find out about this until (Wednesday).” Or “If I known about this sooner several friends would have come with me.”
For the most part, seeing any classical performance, with the periodic exception of something at APSU, classical music is nonexistent; Clarksville residents usually have to leave town to soothe that particular thirst, and that means a trip to Nashville of Louisville for a symphonic concert, a ballet or an opera. The Met: Live in HD offers a global broadcast series of 11 operas from its New York Stage. That series plays two stadium theaters in Nashville, often with standing room only crowds that include large contingent of Clarksville classical fans. The Met series is highly publicized; I hope that the Carmike 10 (or the city’s Great Escape 16) would do the same.
Such productions have a high ticket price ($15-$22) but are worth every single, solitary cent. Soul food. The Carmike had a few issues with the screening, including a long intermission in which the second half of the opera was late in uploading. We waited.
As for the opera itself, I stopped breathing several times, holding onto that intake of breathe at songs so perfectly rendered the rest of the world just fades away, and all that is left is a glorious beauty.
Carmen was my first opera, my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center back in 1968. I already knew the music, had read my mother’s 1940’s libretto in French and English, and her her sing some of its music. I was hooked for life.
While the Met broadcast have a better polish and quality of film, the Met’s Carmen is a bit more sanitized that this European version, in which platformed bustlines and ample cleavage lent a realism to the passion and eroticism that is Carmen. This is an earthy Carmen, laced with flamenco rhythm, the solid slap of boots against the earth, the steaming sexual innuendo, all balancing on a thin line between love and hate.
A cast of 147, including a cadre of children, filled and almost overpowered the stage for the village scenes, with an interesting choreography that at one point has two masses of actors moving in opposite directions, creating a visible dimension to flowing crowd outside the factory where Carmen works. The women, gypsies,and prostitutes, pour through an opened gate and into a tumble of merchants and soldiers. The love stories begin. Smoulder. Erupt into tragedy, the hallmark of opera.
The first act moves slowly, inching its way to the heart of the show, acts II and III, exploding in a passionate, fiery conclusion at act IV. The entire production is sung in French without subtitles.
Anna Caterina Antonacci is a lusty and provocative Carmen, Ildebrando D’Cacangelo exudes power as Escamillo. Jonas Kaufman is striking as the tormented soldier Don Jose, a man spiraling downward in a whirlpool of unrequited passion. Norah Amsellan is the lovely Micaela, pining for Don Jose.
Carmen will be have an encore screening Sunday, October 19 at 1:15 p.m. and the Carmike 10 at Governor’s Square Mall, 2801 Wilma Rudolph Blvd. For more information, call (931) 503-0783
Coming up in this classical series are The Royal ballet with Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty on October 23 at 7 p.m.; The Royal Opera production of Mozart’s Le nozze de Figaro (date/time TBA); and the Royal Ballet production of Romeo and Juliet (date/time TBA).
Theater staff indicated that the screening of the remaining series would be on successive Thursdays at 7, with possible encores on as Sunday matinees, but the remaining dates (Sleeping Beauty excepted) could not be confirmed. We will keep track, and post the schedule when it becomes available. If you attend any or all of these performances, in Clarksville or in Nashville, it is important to let theater managers know how much you appreciate the availability of classical music and dance.