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“Where was Liam Joshua?”

“Anyone looking for orgiastic obscenity in Calixto Bieito‘s production of Carmen at the London Coliseum, will be bitterly disappointed, writes Rupert Christiansen.” [The Telegraph]


  • 1
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Where is the indepth discussion of Diegle’s tattoos?

  • 2
    Arianna a Nasso says:

    “ENO has travelled to Romania and the US to cast the leading roles: couldn’t they have done better closer to home?”

    Alice Coote? Sarah Connolly? Christine Rice wasn’t that impressive at Covent Garden. I’d be curious to know which “closer to home” singer would be a good Carmen in a Bieto production.

    • 2.1
      stevey says:

      Lines like that, actually written by (I’m assuming) a respected journalist for a known and venerated British periodical, just go to show why both the invention and continued presence of our dear Vicar John (who, of course, takes such sentiments to their most dizzying extreme… and I was going to say ‘omnipresence of’, because we never know when and where he’s going to pop up next, but I thought better of it), is such a stroke of sheer and utter satiric brilliance.

      • 2.1.1
        armerjacquino says:

        And yet complaining about non-Americans in US houses is fine. I will never, ever understand the difference.

          stevey says:

          Did I say that?

          You will never, ever understand the difference, Armer… because there isn’t one!

          ARE there a lot of complaints about non-Americans in US houses? I know there’s certainly a lot of ‘rah rah! Woo hoo!’-ing when young American singers get what was thought of as ‘their big break’ and make good (witness the orgiastic spasmings over Latonia Moore’s recent Met Aida, Lise Lindstorm’s sudden first--Met Turandot, Angela Brown’s Ballo Amelia of a few years back, Angela Meade in whatever, etc.), but I always wondered if that was more the North American desire to witness the ‘local girl makes it big’-type dream come to fruition. If you’ve ever seen the American baseball movie ‘The Natural’ (from the 80’s, with Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, et al.), then you’ll know what I mean…

          I always thought it was sort of the opposite, and that if a foreign singer was singing (and especially making their debut) in a role for a particular North American house, both that house and the press will trumpet the import of said foreign talent (for reasons which I thought amounted to wanting to point out how worldly and sophisticated they and they’re scouting and casting abilities are “Look who we’ve been able to go and find and bring over from all over the world” sort-of thing). One vivid personal example of this that I have was one of the times when I came back to visit my family in Toronto and the COC was all ready and proud to unveil a brand new ‘Macbeth’ starring the exciting Hungarian import Georgina Lucaks (who, as all the press, unceasingly was pointing out) had just opened La Scala earlier in ‘Forza’ and had also sung , , and at ). To the point where, at an open-air COC concert, she was most the most prominently featured singer (both of her aria’s closed each act, she was the only one done up in full gown (with wrap!), and she was even introduced as “an exciting singer from Hungary, that we are so thrilled to have with us here singing at the COC”, and crap like that…

          She was awful! Yet, of course, none of the Toronto media would say anything like that. It would be like the small (and ‘ignorant’) child pointing out to all the wise and enlightened adults that the Emperor’s new clothes AREN’T actually made from the finest of fabrics and, if fact, don’t even exist at all…

          Later on (I think the next year, exactly), I was lucky enough to find myself in San Francisco, around the time they were having THEIR new Macbeth, which I excitingly set to check out…

          Their Lady of choice? The same Georgina Lucaks. And she was about as magnificent as she was in Toronto (which is to say, that she wasn’t…). Now, the San Fran press wasn’t as delusional as the Toronto press, and were quick and fair to point out to their readers that La Luckas was not in any way a success… but there was none of this “why not an American??” nationalist-garbage such as we’re discussing here, and is exemplified so vividly in this particular Telegraph review.

          Just my two cents! (But I’m a Canadian living for almost the last decade in Central America, so what the hell do I know??? Hell, I’ve considered myself lucky to get ANYTHING, starring ANYONE, from ANYWHERE!!! (lol)

          My best wishes to you, and hope that all is well over on your end of the Great Pond.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Here is a much more positive review of the ENO Carmen.


            Have any Parterriani attended this production? If so, please share your impressions with us.

            Stevey, I saw Lucaks as Lady M in San Francisco. What a wretched night in the opera house that was. It wasn’t all her fault. The David Pountny production was terrible.

          • phoenix says:

            “lot of complaints about non-Americans in US houses”: Call Sheriff Joe or stuff it!
            -- Adam Diegel’s (apparently) perfect pitch and handsome appearance is all you need, Rupert -- Don José is a country boy who never quite catches up with what is going around him. Can you come up with a better looking Don José on that miserable island you are stuck on?
            -- I believe Rupert, however, is correct about Ruxandra Donose being miscast as Carmen. I imagine her as sort of a poor man’s Sophie Koch strolling the ramparts, eyes glued to her kindle.
            -- Donose is actually a very good concert singer with a rather translucent, soft grained tone. I enjoyed her 2000 Mélisande broadcast from Cincinnati -- still remember how lovely she sounded in that role 12 years after I heard it. Here is Ruxana singing an old Bretan song, Cucule:

            -- Happy Holiday wishes to all! Amneris will be camping out on the Sirius Recreational Facility tomorrow night.

          • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

            stevey, yes: there are regular protectionist complaints as logged by armerjacquino. I crack a wry little smile each time because the same complainants never comment on the wealth of US talent singing (and directing, and conducting) in Europe. [And there’s no need to travel to check on this -- Operabase is a reliable enough guide]. Adina Aaron is merely the latest “find” from the Cologne Forza two months ago; Latonia wowed me in the Hamburg Aida two and a half years ago (opposite Franco Farina, soon to test Buster’s patience in Cologne), and there have been plenty before and in between times, too.

            Be thankful: it is the day for it. [And it’s Saint Cecilia’s Day to boot]. [Plus Benjamin Britten was born 99 years ago today]. [Plus it’s Billie Jean’s 69th birthday]. [Plus her serve-and-volley acolyte Boris Becker’s 45th]. [Oh, but then there’s JFK…]. [Not to mention Mrs. T’s political demise in 1990]. [That’s enough commemorations. La C].

          • grimoaldo says:

            “The David Pountny production was terrible.”

            I saw that too, derschatz, but I loved, oh I loved, those witches in that production, I think of them often, they make me smile even now:


          • louannd says:

            Phoenix, my Arizona friend — I love your comment about Sheriff Joe! I have several opera stagings in my head that feature Sheriff Joe-in Carmen, Abduction from the Seraglio and L’elisir d’amore. Someday I will write them down! :)

          • stevey says:

            Hi Balsamic, and thanks for your response to my comment- it really served to pique my interest about those U.S./North American singers (who as you said, are hardly ever referenced) singing overseas on the other end of the Great Pond.
            So, I gave it some thought… and realized that boy, were you ever correct. I came up with so many singers who seem to have built solid, and in some cases quite spectacular (/ ‘spectacularly busy’) careers in Europe, without the help of nary-or-hardly a booking on their own home turf…
            Some seem to be based either in-and-around one particular country, and are certainly not in any way lacking for bookings (three who I came up with are Bayreuth’s latest, Susan Maclean, Caroline Whisnant, and the “Darling of Dusseldorf/Duisburg”, the spectacularly named Morenike Fadayomi (who may actually be British, come to think of it…)

            But then there are others who are simply everywhere, singing major roles in major and seemingly SOLELY NON-North-American houses.
            I’m thinking Kristin Lewis (has she ever even SUNG in America??), Jane Archibald (admittedly Canadia, but has SHE ever sung in America??), Jennifer Wilson (lamentably! How many of us here are WISHING she’d be singing back over here??), Janice Baird, Emily Magee (when was her last North American booking that wasn’t in Chicago?), Catherine Naglestad, Lise Lindstrom is certainly more booked ‘there’ than here (she’s unveiling her Brunnhilde in Palermo in the not-too-distant future…). All major singers, and not booking or singing much (if at all) back home.

            Hell, and THEN there are those US artists STILL getting bookings in major European houses that, personally, leave me shaking my head and wondering “why?” (I’m thinking of Linda Watson and her career over the last decade and, to a certain extent, Deborah Polaski now…)

            All of this leads me to wonder, and ask your opinion… do you think this is by their choice, or not?? And, whatever your answer may be, why do you think that is?
            (Curious thing, this operatic world!!) ;-)

            And I thank you, too, for reminding me of all the reasons to be thankful- as a Canadian who’s been living in Central America (and who has a tendency to live in something of a bubble on occasion), the fact that it’s American Thanksgiving totally escaped me! So, not only have you saved me from the wrath and remonstration of whatever American friends I have (to whom I’m going to write and wish ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ immediately following this message), but you’ve also given me a reason to crack open a nice bottle of wine, myself!! (And god knows I’m always looking for one of THOSE… lol)

            Happy Thanksgiving to you, too…

            S. :-)

          • stevey says:

            LouannD!!! What about a Sheriff Joe (as Scarpia) Tosca???

            I think it’d be a PERFECT fit! Have Tosca as immigrant / ‘dirty, job-stealing’ Mexican/Immmigrant (that, of course, he’s secretly lusting after…), the ‘Te Deum’ at the end of Act 1 could be sung to his ‘God’ that is American Flag (“Tosca, you make me forget God”, in that his lust for and desire to boing the ‘filthy immigrant’ Tosca- regardless of her talents as an opera singer (talents that she’s hoping may make her eligible for a US Visa ‘for those with special abilities’) makes him forget his God that is America and his subsequent passion for protecting it from the likes of her kind encroaching on it). The pass to Civitavecchia (and I’m saying all of this while acknowledging that it’d be impossible to get away with all of this due to the direct place references in the libretto) could be a Green Card or VISA (with perhaps bus or train tickets somewhere), and the final chase could be done with a combination of police and INS/ICE officials!!! Whadd’ya think???

            (I have too much time on my hands, don’t I? lol)

            Hope you are well! :-)

          • louannd says:

            @Stevie -- Yes, Stevie, it COULD be done! LOL.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Baltsamic- it’s grossly unfair to paint me as a ‘protectionist’. My position has always been that I LOATHE the use of nationality as a criterion for judgement, whether it’s buffoonery like Christiansen’s above or its US counterpart. Of course there are brilliant US singers all over Europe, that literally goes without saying. When I hear a singer my first thought is not ‘Ooh, I wonder where she was born?’

          • armerjacquino says:

            Sorry, hit return too early. But seriously, even the people who most fervently disagree with me on this point- Nerva, Krunoslav and co- will, I think, happily admit that I have NEVER complained about US (or any other) singers singing in the UK or in Europe. I have only ever been in the meta-position of complaining about complaints. ‘Protectionist’ really hurts when my whole position has always been free trade.

          • Buster says:

            Baltsamic: Franco Farina got through the part with only a little shouting here and there, but, unfortunately, he was as prosaic as his Leonore (Erika Sunnegardh).

            All in all, this lacluster Fidelio was a far cry from what was promised originally: sets by Ai Weiwei, directed by Ingo Kerkhof, and performed in an U-Bahn station. Instead, it was done as a concert performance, in a venue completely unfit for opera. Luckily the Rocco family was fabulous. Franz-Josef Selig was easily the best Rocco I have ever heard – a real personality, from his first notes, and what a gorgeous voice! Marzelline was sung by the exceptional Jutta Maria Böhnert. Like her father, she also immediately got right to the heart of her part. She sang a gorgeous aria, and launched the quartet beautifully. In the ensemble leading up to the finale, she soared over everyone else – fabulous singer! I had heard her Sophie before, which was just as sympathetic.

          • A. Poggia Turra says:

            der schatzgabber- I did see the second performance in the initial run of this production at the Liceu, three days after the prima. I wrote this as a summary in opera-l a few days after the performance:

            I had planned to submit a review of the performance of the Calixto Bieito
            production of ‘Carmen’ that I saw at the Liceu in Barcelona a week ago;
            however, my laptop (containing my notes) has crashed and is currently in the
            repair shop. Since some on the list will take advantage of the Emerging
            Pictures / Opera in Cinema live moviecast this coming Wednesday, I just
            wanted to note that this production upholds Mr. Bieito’s standard of seeking
            the underlying truths of a repertory standard.

            The story is easily recognizable; yes, the framework and the dress is
            modern, but the story is easily recognizable. Some of the factors that are
            either taken for granted, or simply ignored, in boilerplate production are
            here explored or even emphasized -- the setting of much of the action in the
            military camp, for instance, with the male chorus and supers taking a much
            more active role in the action than usual, allows for the consideration
            of attitudes of masculinity and their role in this particular society, for

            The sets are minimal, putting the emphasis on the singing actors. Yes, a
            number of automobiles are seen on stage for extended periods. But this is
            wholly within the context of a modern-day setting -- Carmen and her cohorts
            are modern-day smugglers, after all, and cars are needed to transport their
            contraband over the border.

            Carmen is a real, living, empowered woman, fully aware of her power over men
            -- trite gypsy affectations and frou-frou are dispensed with, and her gritty,
            do-what-it-takes-to-survive nature comes to the fore (although Uria-Monzon
            sings and acts in a way that makes us all understand why Don Jose falls so
            hard for her). Alagna was in fine voice and evolved his portrayal from the
            ordinary soldier to the demented and obsessed killer in a seamless,
            naturalistic way. The Flower Song was a highlight -- better than on the Met
            HD and DVD. Schrott was fine as Escamillo (the production under-emphasized
            this role). The weak link is Poplavskaya -- decent acting but uneven
            intonation and some stressed notes. Hopefully she will have improved by the
            13th. Highly recommended!

            A list member earlier raised the issue of the Bieito ‘Ballo in Maschera’
            opening scene. I wonder if he or she has ever seen the full production? I
            have, and the very brief men’s restroom scene fits wholly within
            Bieito’s depiction of Gustav’s court as a place od duplicitous beings
            performing some pretty nasty things. Is Amelia the first married woman that
            Gustav has desired, is Ackanstrom the first loyal deputy he has betrayed? Is
            the court’s nonchalant acceptance of a witch/soothsayer a “good” thing? Even
            when I don’t agree (or don’t grasp) Mr. Bieito’s points, I’m glad that he
            asks me to engage my mind and to consider the context in which the
            ravishingly beautiful singing is taking place.

            On the subject of UK opera critics promoting UK singers etc, I always thought that it was an issue of subsidy (in other words, since companies like the ENO receive public funds, they had an implicit (maybe “understood”) obligation to use UK singers whenever the artistic goals allowed.

          Nerva Nelli says:

          The complaints are *not* about “non-Americans”, as you should know by now. The complaints, at least *my* complaints, are about less than first rate people with London connections- training , agents, whatever-- being brought over strictly on that basis.

          The UK has about 63 million people. The US and Canada together have 347 million people. The amount--not just the proportion, but the *amount*--of British artists and administrators working in North American houses GROSSLY outweighs the amount of US and Canadian artists (leaving Mexico out) working in the UK.

          And there has been that “old boy/girl” at work here for decades. As I have said innumerable times, when we’re talking about top talent-- Harry Bicket and Lucy Crowe and Simon Keenlyside and Alice Coote--*fabulous*. But when we’re talking about Jonathan Peter Kenny and William Lacey and Ashley Holland and yearly jobbing in mid-level ROH ancients for comprimario roles, that’s another story.

          You can pretend that that is not the case, but it is. You get the occasional American or Canadian dud at the ENO or WNO, but we get their UK equivalents at every major house and many mid-size houses, every season.

          I haff spoken.

          • phoenix says:

            Why is this so?.
            -- Here in the U.S. we speak english, but it appears to me that demographically those of any significant ‘British’ ancestry (at least around where I live) are in the extreme minority -- and they are FAR OUTNUMBERED (Cieza being the exception) by the others -- where does the commonwealth ‘supremacy’ come from? -- the naturalborn arrogance of the Brits and their agents? Is Gelb obligated to them for giving him his career boost -- and is this the reason the Foreign NZ Princess of the Met Casting Dept. throws her commonwealth weight around? -- or are the Brit comprimarios just scramblng for a Green Card & a chance for citizenship over here, just like others?
            -- Thanks Nerva! This farce is worth documenting!

          • stevey says:

            Hear, hear Nerva!!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Yes. You have said that many times before. It still doesn’t come close to excusing the towering great double standard.

            Phoenix, your observation about the ‘naturalborn arrogance’ of an entire nation doesn’t really come close to passing the very useful ‘replace with Jew’ test, does it?

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            “Yes. You have said that many times before. It still doesn’t come close to excusing the towering great double standard.”

            Why not? Because you say it doesn’t? We’re not talking about brilliant singers; we’re not, either, talking about exclusion of people on the basis of ethnicity or birthplace. We’re talking about a systemic imbalance, a professional network, that grossly favors UK-based artists working in North America rather than the reverse.

            I have to say this has phenomenon has decreased in the last year or two, though we still have the Plowright Zia Principessa slated for Seattle, Mark Stone *yet again* at Philadelphia (as Papageno!), Gwyn Hughes Jones allowed inside the Met as something other than a paying customer, and many other inexplicables.

            Please, anyone attending the upcoming David Soar Met debut in that hardest-to-cast role, Masetto-- report back. Once hopes he does well. Or maybe he’ll be “the finest Met Masetto since Lemalu!”

          • armerjacquino says:

            Well, there’s no point hashing it over and over again. I do appreciate your point that it’s frustrating when suboptimal singers are cast anywhere, in anything, and I’m not at all surprised that the traffic is more in one direction than another- there’s only one international house in the UK so many singers will want to appear in the US, which has so many top-class houses.

            Soar strikes me as being on a hiding to nothing, really. If he’s good, it’ll be ‘Well, he was good, but countless local singers would have been as good’ and if he’s bad the balloon will go up. I don’t think even the greatest singer on earth could pull out a Masetto so astonishing that everyone will gasp and say ‘this is the only singer who could have played this part so well’. Didn’t Terfel and Gheorghiu play the contadini at the ROH in the 90s without anyone really noticing?

          • manou says:

            I saw Gheorghiu as Zerlina and remember being very impressed by her and fully expecting her career to take off in a big way -- a vain hope as it turned out…

          • phoenix says:

            amerjac, sorry if I have offended you -- I intended my comment to be a question, not a statement, but as usual my lousy syntax didn’t make that clear -- if ‘natural born arrogance’ is off the mark, maybe ‘traditional anglo-saxon partisanship’ might be more acceptable unto thee? Possibly you don’t know what I am refering to -- it has most likely been taken out of your history books and would be ancient lore for someone as young as you -- only those of us grew up in the last century could have experienced it first-hand. I am sure you love my homeland over here as much as you love yours over there -- but sorry, but I can’t reciprocate the sentiment.
            -- Furthermore, I don’t understand what natural born anglo-saxon arrogance has to with Jews -- I don’t know what you mean -- are they related or something -- perhaps you can explain it more clearly to me. My adopted parents were Jewish but didn’t, as far I know, have anything to do with Great Britain.
            -- Thanks for your comments and belated Happy Thanksgiving wishes to you.

          • armerjacquino says:

            phoenix- no offence taken! You’re right, I do love the US (and specifically NYC, which people often tell me isn’t quite the same thing…)

            I wasn’t making any direct comparison or connection between the UK and Jewishness- the ‘replace with Jew’ test is an old rhetorical meme that is applicable to anything which looks a little like a generalisation.

            Happy Thanksgiving to you too, and indeed to everyone else. This site would definitely be on my ‘things I’m grateful for’ list, even if it does occasionally make me throw things :-)

          • phoenix says:

            Much appreciate your explanation -- I’m not sure who they would ‘replace’ what with over here. NYC belongs to everyone in the world -- rich or poor or anything inbetween, no matter how many billionaires have condos there. Yes, I love it too. Cairo used to be like that in the latter half of the last century. You could go out at any time of the day or night and shops would be open, people bustling about, etc. as if it was high noon. NYC is unique -- nothing like it in the rest of the USA. Still, I value the traditional hospitality and warmth of the people from my own homeland area in the Southwest just as much as I love NYC. You should go out there on the train and tour the beautiful natural monuments and charming towns & villages.
            -- I have to go up to our local mountaintop zoo -- today will probably be the last day it will open until mid-Spring coming up 2012. Snow and all day freezing temperature are predicted for the coming weeks. Then I have to go to gym and workout and then swim. I won’t make it to Amneris’ campfire right ontime tonight, but I hope to hear some of it.

          • phoenix says:

            I meant mid-Spring 2013 -- quite often they open the zoo on Earth Day -- but sometimes have to close it again if a blizzard comes on.

          • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

            Nerva, stevey, armwerjacquino and buster --

            wowee, sorry to have had to check out until now. But it is good to hear from you. However I seem to have struck a few nerves and am amazed at myself.

            I must start with you, aj, as I thought I was in your corner when addressing ‘protectionism’ to the why-aren’t-US-singers-being-given-a-chance-posters -- in response to which Nerva has set out her position. [BTW I never remember who makes the complaints as I don’t take them to heart, so thank you, Nerva, for stepping up]. Rest assured we have no quarrel on that front, aj.

            Buster, sorry about Fidelio and I agree about the venue. It’s like the NYC Sandy crane has come crashing down around a giant blue fibre-glass wind-sock. To be fair, the interior is serviceable enough. But the shell does nothing for Cologne. If you are still there, try and see the Diocesan Museum [Kolumba] recently made over by Pritzker Prize-winner Peter Zumthor; better again, head out of town and see his brick-in-a-field chuch:

            Selig is a treat, agreed; you have Farina spot-on; the Marzelline is new to me and I must go and look her up this minute.

            Happy Black Friday, y’all!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Baltsamic- I’ve just re-read your post and rest assured I am blushing furiously. Apologies for being a trigger-happy idiot.

          • Buster says:

            I love the Kolumba, Baltsamic! I always try to see their yearly exhibition. This one was a little creepy, though. The new Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum was impressive too, and I had never been to the Cologne Cemetry (Melaten Friedhof), which turned out to be fascinating – beautiful setting, huge, and very atmospheric.

          • Bianca Castafiore says:

            Well, Nervosa — not often but here she does — have a point.

            If you turn on the tv, you see also tons of British imports doing work as presenters, hosts, sales/spokespersons… So many and the only reason they got hired was because of their British accent. It’s almost like any loser from the British isles can just disembark and get hired solely on the basis they speak a funny form of English.

      • 2.1.2
        grimoaldo says:

        To fully understand Rupert C’s comment, you must realise that English National Opera for many years had a policy, whether written or unwritten I do not know, of employing British and Commonwealth singers only, or almost only, as a contrast to the Royal Opera which uses international stars. And he is not complaining about using “foreign” singers as such, he is saying that he didn’t think they were very good and their importation was unnecessary, or as Sir Thomas Beecham said many years ago “I don’t know why managements import so many third rate foreign singers when we have plenty of second rate singers of our own”.

          Regina delle fate says:

          In fact, ENO now has a very fine record of employing far-from-rising-star American singers -- the lady whose name I’ve happily forgotten who shrieked her way through Musetta and was invited back for Leila in The Pearl Fishers and the star-billing of Anna Christy who strikes me as the US’s answer to Mojca Erdmann -- but I agree with Nerva about the ridiculousness of hiring “mid-level ROH ancients” (wonderful phrase, by the way) for comprimario roles, and hiring non-local people for parts that are not difficult to cast such as Masetto and Papageno. But this happens at Covent Garden and ENO, all the time. We recently had a TERRIBLE Monterone from Italy in a Rigoletto revival. I don’t complain when a terrific old trouper such as Elena Zilio turns up for Zita in Gianni Schicchi, but I’m not sure we needed Enrico Fissore, no less of a veteran, for the Notary. Both ENO and the RO have employed a lot of duff or overparted US singers, but sometimes they turn up a jewel: the recent American Queen of Night at the Colly was one of the best we’ve heard since Diana Damrau at the RO, and she has a far more interesting voice. She got by far the biggest applause on both of the evenings I went. Bravissima!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Yes, the Coliseum is becoming a very good house for young American singers. Melody Moore made a big impression as Mimi, Georgia Jarman completely stole HOFFMANN, and I’m not the only one who is very excited about Corinne Winters’ upcoming Violetta.

          • Will says:

            Regina, perhaps you could identify the singer for us, rather than just referring to her as “the recent American QoN?” If she was that good, it would be of interest to know who the lady is.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            We have Angel Blue’s upcoming Musetta at ENO to look forward to also -- she strikes me as somebody who could last 5 minutes or be an absolute top flight star of the next generation, fingers crossed for the latter.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            2 seconds of googling reveals that it was Kathryn Lewek, Will. She’s on contract at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin at the moment.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            It’s funny Regina -- I heard Damrau as the Queen of the Night at the ROH when the David McVicar production was new and completely failed to register anybody special. I also saw her as the Fiakermilli and don’t even recall *anybody* in the role, and I saw her in 1984 when I did think she was impressive but by no means a future star. The one time I have heard her when I really thought she was wonderful was as Gretel -- her acting was fantastic and her low-pressure lyrical stuff was really beautifully sung and phrased.

            It’s hard to imagine the young Gheorghiu not standing out as Zerlina, given the existence of Vedrai carino, one of the most beautiful arias when done well. Masetto has no such opportunities to shine, fun though he is to play. David Soar is a smashing bloke and a decent singer but I can’t really imagine him progressing beyond the likes of Masetto at the Met or any other major house.

          • CarlottaBorromeo says:

            Lewek is not on contract at the Deutsche Oper. She was there for one season (2011/12). Terrific artist…

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Ooop sorry, Kathryn Lewek!

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Cocky -- I agree about Damrau when the production was new, but she did a really fantastic revival later when her voice seemed not only bigger but rounder too. Shortly after that she announced she didn’t want to sing the role any more and I think she sang Pamina at the Met (was it a success, anybody?).

            I also happened to attend the single Gheorghiu Zerlina and she was far better suited to the role than Marta Marquez, the somewhat beefy mezzo who preceded her (and who seems to have sunk without trace ever since). It was a performance that made you long to see her as Susanna and even, a few years thence, as Fiordiligi or possibly Vitellia. I think she would have been wonderful in those roles a few years ago, if she could be bothered. But it’s doubtless too late now.

    • 2.2
      Arianna a Nasso says:

      I guess my point was, if there are better alternatives in the UK willing to work for the relatively low ENO fees, tell us who they are, Rupert, rather than make such cheap blanket statements. I suppose Gwyn Hughes Jones sings Don Jose as well as -- or perhaps better than -- Adam Diegel, but he’s been at the Met during what would have been the ENO rehearsal period -- and who wouldn’t choose a Met engagement for a comparable role given its stature and much higher fees?

      • 2.2.1
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I thought Met fees weren’t all that great -- are you sure they’re higher than ENO?

        I don’t know what Huges Jones’s motives were for accepting his Met engagement, but it really irks me that people assume that prestige trumps all. Quite possibly it did for Hughes Jones on this occasion, if I remember correctly he has sung there once before as a comprimario about 6 years ago, and maybe he was motivated by the opportunity to do a major Verdi role with an international cast in a leading international house. But you know, an established artist, regularly working at a high level like Hughes Jones will have other considerations too, like spending time with his family, not having to put up with flights, hotels, foreign exchange exposure, general hassle associated with being away from home for a couple of months, and possibly lower fees than he might get elsewhere. Once one is past the initial stages in a singing career, for many prestige is secondary or doesn’t come into it -- it’s about making a living with an acceptable work/life balance and a tolerable level of the kind of sacrifices any artist has to make.

    • 2.3
      Regina delle fate says:

      Coote sang in the previous ENO production of Carmen and was quite odd in the part, although she sang it very well. Connolly might make an interesting ENO Carmen, although she is nearly 50 now (Ruxandra Donose is 48, so no spring chicken, either) but it’s possible she does not want to sing the role. Christine Rice certainly wasn’t impressive in the context of Covent Garden where we are used to more starry Carmens, but she has often shone at the Coliseum in less stellar company, as many British singers have always done. Not sure she really has the temperament for Carmen. There is no obvious British Don José at the moment -- Hughes Jones could sing it, but he’s no actor and presumably Diegel was chosen primarily for his looks in this particular production. It’s a bit surprising that Christiansen doesn’t clock that. Some of the reviews have been less than positive about Leigh Melrose -- who is British -- as Escamillo, but there don’t seem to be many ideal Toreadors of any nationality around at the moment -- judging by the one chosen for Simon Rattle’s recent recording anyway, and the last few heard at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. Those of us who saw José van Dam in his pomp have been spoilt.

  • 3
    manou says:

    “Where was Liam Joshua?”


  • 4
    louannd says:

    It was worth reading as I now know what a “saloon car” is and what “Osborne sherry” is.

  • 5
    manou says:

    Here is the Times review from behind the firewall:

    Richard Morrison
    Published at 12:02AM, November 23 2012
    3*** out of 5

    The good news for Bizet lovers is that English National Opera’s latest staging of Carmen is better than the last one. But who’s been putting sedative in Calixto Bieito’s sangria? The Catalan director once supplied more shocks than a dodgy plug. This staging, which has been much toured abroad, includes a few insalubrities: a little urination here; a waggling willy there. But, disappointingly, there’s nothing else to frighten your maiden aunt. The main talking point is whether ENO, which has just decided to flog “naming rights” to the Coliseum, has picked up a fat cheque from Mercedes-Benz for this show, as no fewer than five Mercs are on stage at one point, not including the character who also has that name.
    Bieito’s opening is gripping enough: Franco-era soldiers being inspected by whip-wielding officers, a squaddie forced to sprint round in his pants until he collapses, a leering, hyper-macho atmosphere, then the arrival of a sexy, sultry beauty whom the soldiers devour with their eyes. Wow, you think, this is going to be a hot night. Then you realise that she isn’t Carmen, just a non-singing extra. It’s the stolid housewife type — trapped, for some reason, in a telephone kiosk — who is Carmen.
    This mocking of our preconceptions, about this opera particularly and Spain in general, is what Bieito’s concept is all about. The giant bull that looms over Act III (the only interesting thing in Alfons Flores’s set) is ripped down and revealed as a cardboard illusion. The flamenco frocks are donned by the girl smugglers only to hoodwink customs officers. Escamillo is much more a seedy smalltown racketeer than a macho toreador. And so on.
    Bieito appears far more interested in making cerebral, satirical points about the tacky falsity of 1970s Spain than exploring the searing passions of Carmen and José. As a result those passions — the clinches, brawls, the fatalism about death — seem like just more of the unreal touristic myths that the director is debunking.
    The cast is an oddly mixed bunch. As Carmen, the Romanian mezzo Ruxandra Donose reveals a rich, well-schooled voice, but as a femme fatale she’s about as dangerous as Julie Andrews. Leigh Melrose brings a striking, venal energy as Escamillo; his Toreador’s Song is one of the few numbers that sounds as though it’s sung in English. Elizabeth Llewellyn confirms her growing reputation as a sweet-voiced Micaëla who is still (improbably) feisty enough to win José back from Carmen. But as that vacillating corporal the American tenor Adam Diegel is hard work: a voice that will never be likened to a pot of honey and a volume control permanently stuck on Gale Force 10. Wearying. Ryan Wigglesworth conducts efficiently, but the orchestra lacks fervour.

    • 5.1
      MontyNostry says:

      I do find it astonishing that opera houses seem to have so much trouble getting Carmen right. London has Zambello’s dreary kitsch at the ROH and now Bieito’s moist squib at ENO. OK, the opera is less failsafe than, say, Tosca, but it’s such a fascinating, brilliant piece and surely not **that** difficult to cast at a decent level with all the younger talent that’s around these days. For instance, one review pointed out that ENO used a stodgy translation and cut virtually all the dialogue. So much for their high levels of dramaturgical integrity.

      • 5.1.1
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I think the main trouble with the Zambello is that it looks like kitsch on a budget, making it neither one thing nor the other -- just an old-fashioned, traditional staging but with a disappointing, flat, angular set that serves for all 4 acts in different permutations. It has had some good casting though.

          MontyNostry says:

          What I hated most about the Zambello production was the way Carmen herself was handled. I saw the first run with Antonacci, who was just directed as the usual slut, whereas she could have made a much more interesting, cooler, more dignified femme fatale, while still being sexy. Oh yes, and I hated the ‘authentic’ local colour and the cute moppets too. Zambello does like her moppets.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Agreed, Zambello went back to direct the revival with Alagna and Garanca too, and that’s how Garanca came across -- a hell of a lot of hands on hips and hauling up her skirt -- if she lifted it up once she lifted it 100 times, and it got very boring. Her singing was superb though.

            I’m not at all sure what a moppet is.

          • manou says:

            Not only moppets, disabled moppets too -- let us not forget the sad little boy on crutches.

            Add also into the mix donkeys, chickens and the two women getting washed stage front for no particular reason.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Guess the semi-naked women kept Francesca happy, ya know.
            Garanca, like Antonacci, could make an interesting cool bitch of a Carmen. She is also good looking enough not to have to be trying too hard to be seductive. (Von Otter’s attempts to be a sexy slut for McVicar were excruciating. She was more like a schoolmarm who’d overdone the sherry a bit.)
            There was a horse too, manou.

          • manou says:

            There was indeed a horse -- Ildebrando d’Arcangelo was scared out of his wits!

      • 5.1.2
        Belfagor says:

        I’ve never ever seen a convincing production of Carmen. I’d love to see a take that does it like a naughty Offenbach operetta that goes horribly wrong, but you’d need brilliant performers for that. I actually rather liked the Pountney concept one set in a used car lot with lots of shagging and smouldering, except that the performances were a bit ENO central.

        Zambello’s was just unbelievably boring. First time I saw it was with Baltsa and Carreras at ROH, I was very excited in anticipation, and totally let down by curtain call. I tend to avoid it now.

          CarlottaBorromeo says:

          Just to be clear, Baltsa and Carreras were in the old Geliot production from the 1970s. Mind you the Zambello does look rather… no that would be unkind…

          • Belfagor says:

            All I remember about that old production was the wedding dress Baltsa wore looked distinctly as if it had been designed for someone more statuesque and spent most of the performance regretting I wasn’t seeing Shirley Verrett……..

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Haha Carlotta -- yes, that was two RO productions ago. We had the Nuria Espert production with Mewing and Kathleen Kuhlmann before Zambello got her hands on the Sevillian Bohémienne. Espert’s production was not much liked, but it is easily the best of the three I’ve seen at Covent Garden (José killed C with a meat-hook). Holten is promising a new one at Covent Garden. The Zambello stagings are being shown the door it seems. He’s doing a new Don Giovanni instead of reviving hers next season.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Thank god for that. That Zambello DG stinks.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Quite, armer, one of my least favourite productions ever. Nothing to recommend it.

          oedipe says:

          The Bieito production is actually very very good. Rupert’s point of view -which I don’t find very interesting, I must say- notwithstanding. But of course, the capacity of the cast to bring it to life makes all the difference.

          grimoaldo says:

          “I’ve never ever seen a convincing production of Carmen.”
          The Carmen I saw that completely convinced me, so much so that I have never been to see that opera again, why disturb memories of a perfect experience, was the old, old, old one at ENO by John Copley with Katherine Pring. I saw it over and over,Alberto Remedios was Jose, at least sometimes, and the Micaelas were variously Valerie Masterson, Anne Evans and Linda Esther Gray (!).

          • J. G. Pastorkyna says:

            Agreed. This was wonderful. Do you remember how Pring upset the orange cart at the end of Act 1? And she was barefoot for most of it too. I saw it with Linda Esther Gray. It was a perfect traditional production.

          • grimoaldo says:

            That Carmen with Pring and Gray was filmed and transmitted on TV, I remember very well, I keep hoping that one day it will surface on youtube somehow, until then we have our memories JGP!

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Oh Grim -- yes, this has to be the best staging London has seen of Carmen in the last 40 years. I saw Pring, Swift, Chard (neither great, but better than what we get there now) and Elizabeth Tippett as Micaela and I think Mackerras conducted, but it might have been Nicholas Braithwaite…..I wish I had seen those Micaelas in the show, though I did catch Masterson’s Micaela in a Covent Garden revival with either Baltsa or Berganza.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Excuse a double post but Linda Esther Gray, if memory serves me, made her ENO debut as Micaela in Spring 1979 in that production and her next role was Isolde, replacing Margaret Curphey, in a Welsh NO production conducted by Goodall -- must be one of the most startling leaps from full lyric to hochdramatisch rep in the recent history of opera but it can’t have been good for her. She was a fabulous Isolde for about a year and a half and then it all went pear-shaped and she cancelled both her first Brünnhilde and Turandot in 1984. One of the saddest career train-wrecks I know of.

    • 5.2
      oedipe says:

      Leigh Melrose brings a striking, venal energy as Escamillo; his Toreador’s Song is one of the few numbers that sounds as though it’s sung in English.

      That’s only fair, isn’t it: the French version of Carmen often sounds to me as though it’s sung in English!

  • 6
    MontyNostry says:

    Talking of Carmen, the Austrian Nikolai Schukoff(soon to be Don J in Paris) speaks impressive French -- he says that he’s married to a French woman and lives in Paris.

    • 6.1
      damekenneth says:

      Deeply distressed to see that Schukoff is (gasp!) straight. I had held out such fantasies.

  • 7
    oedipe says:

    I think all you people are missing the point of dear Rupert’s review. Rather than good idiomatic English singing, what he is REALLY yearning for and not getting enough of is more sex and violence, “orgiastic obscenity”, “the destructive power of sexual infatuation” (say wha?). The Bieito production is too intellectual and not kinky enough for the hot-blooded London audience. And the principals are missing the “killer eroticism” that could undoubtedly be found “closer to home”. People want to know: WHO did you have in mind when you wrote this, Rupert?

  • 8
    Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

    armerjacquino -- very nice to have that ironed out between us, thank you. Good to hear back from you before I power off and start the weekend on a vernacular front: good ol’ Mary Black in a fund-raising concert at the local Catholic church. The excitement! “Visceral” doesn’t begin to do justice to contemporary Dublin Friday nights. But we see Così tomorrow thanks to Opera Theatre Company so I’ll pack the sarcasm away for now.

  • 9
    oedipe says:

    Bieito’s Carmen: a lesson in modern theater.