Giacomo Puccini, BIZET: Carmen

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The war of the sexes, and classes, waged seductively.

Shocking in its day, Bizet's opera innovates by casting a defiantly lower-class figure — a Gypsy wanderer and sometime cigarette-factory worker — as the heroine. Carmen's dual strengths are her fierce independence and her no less fierce sexual allure; she's utterly unapologetic for either trait, which in combination drive Don José, a nice upstanding soldier boy, to desertion and murder. That Carmen's strength had to be punished by death rankles some feminist critics, but such a culture clash could only end in tragedy; the story could just as plausibly be read as an indictment of a male-dominated society as a cautionary tale showing the dangers of female assertiveness. Or you could just sit back and savor the score's brilliant Iberian flavor. [i]Carmen[/i] newbies are bound to recognize plenty of the tunes. Graciela Alperyn is seductive and mercurial in the title role; Alexander Rahbari leads a vigorously colorful performance.