I noticed many groups of opera newbies at Madison Opera’s sold-out “Carmen,” a fantastic production featuring Katharine Goeldner in the lead. As an introduction to opera, this production of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” was a treat, with familiar melodies, passionate characters and a saturated color palette in sets and costumes.
While the leads (including Adam Diegel and Hyung Yun) were uniformly gifted, I was most impressed with Candace Evans’ smoothly integrated direction and the strength of the supporting cast. Madison Opera has set the bar high for future performances, which can only mean good things in 2010.
I’m a fool when it comes to opera. I love the sound of the music, and that’s pretty much it. The lyrics seldom interest me, and the plots, with their creaky Brady Bunch lameness, can be wincingly bad. (True confession: I fell asleep at the Lyric Opera’s humdrum, zzz-inducing Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci double bill in February.) But, wow, the Faust legend! Now, that’s a story worthy of the Greeks. What can be more primal than a bitter old man trading his soul to the devil for a return to youth and a chance for sex with a young woman, whom he leaves pregnant and abandoned? (Today, we have a pill to facilitate that devilish transaction.)
The plot got me, and so did the cast and staging by director Bernard Uzan. I scribbled in my notes that Mexican tenor David Lomeli, as Faust, is destined for greatness. Bass-baritone David Pittsinger’s Mephistopheles was ominous and unsettling, practically scary. The third act featured a shocking scene of Satan getting the best of a wimpy Christ who steps down from the cross. Bad move, Jesus. I’m surprised Bishop Morlino wasn’t out front picketing.
Opera that makes you think is rare. This was a great night for the Madison Opera.