star_thumb“Maybe this bold staging was a little overwrought. But when you have Ms. Garanca as Carmen, why not?” Anthony Tommasini offers an object lesson in the art of Criticism as Starfucking.
Okay. Here’s “why not.” The idea of turning Carmen’s dance into a lap dance basically strips a whole layer of meaning and irony from the scene. Even working from the recitative text, we have this:

José arrives and tells Carmen he loves her. She tells him that she has just danced for his officers. (She is trying to make him say he’s jealous.) Once he says, “Yes, I’m jealous,” she responds by pretending to believe it’s the dancing is the specific reason for the jealousy. “Very well,” she says, “I’ll put on a little dancing show for you, just as I did for them.” She even says in a mock-grandiose style “Je vais danser en votre honneur.”

The point is, the dance is a ironic game Carmen is playing with José: she’s taking his words literally and acting on them, a sort of pun. Now, a director could choose that he gets into the little comedy and plays along, e.g., pretending to be a serious audience member. Or he might be flustered, not knowing how to read what she’s doing.

But what seems to La Cieca to be out of bounds is simply to abandon the idea, so plainly expressed in the text (and, it can be argued, in the formality of the music) that Carmen is doing a deliberate performance here.  In fact, what could be more revolting than the idea that she should say, “Now I will show you exactly how I danced for those other men,” and then commence to dry-humping José’s leg?

Ironic humor is part of Carmen’s appeal; so why should you just chuck all that out because you have Ms. Garanca available (and, so far as we can tell, unable to learn how to play castanets)?