What a fabulous performance of VO’s Carmen. We were treated to the finale, which included Richard Troxell and Kate Alrdich in the main roles. I’ll be honest, Aldrich, as Carmen, could have a second career as a lap dancer. Not only was Aldrich’s sultry mezzo singing mesmerizing, and probably getting half of the male audience on edge, but she could hold a second career as a lap dancer in any city. She held the show, with impeccable singing that made me think of a combination of Edith Piaf and Billy Holiday, smoking a pack a day, and giving off an air of the morals of an alley cat. If half the gentlemen in the audience didn’t have a hard-on, well, they needed a prescription for Viagra. From the first Act to the last, Aldrich’s acting as a gypsy lover was fantastic, between being able to juggle the nuances of the singing role with that of the acting: she was entirely believable as a gypsy in the throes of passion. Of note was her sultry voice, with a cigarette, raw edge: a diamond in the rough, and perfect for the role.
Richard Troxell’s Don Jose was clean but weak. His voice was almost lost behind the orchestra, and though his chemistry with Aldrich was strong, his voice was lacking which made for a more indecisive role. Although it was relatively seamless to see Don Jose caught up in the throes of passion, as one might see a varsity quarterback, seeing him murder Carmen, by stabbing her, at the end was a bit of a stretch; I would have bought a strangling more, which suited the weaker voice, than the jealous impulse of a stabbing.
Particular highlights were Farsquita and Mercedes’ roles (Caitlin Wood and Laurelle Jade Froese, respectively), as well as La Dancaire and Le Remendado (Aaron Durand and Rocco Rupolo, respectively), as the roles were well acted and well sung. I was disappointed to listen to Escamillo (Morgan Smith) who reminded me of a dated Quentin Tarantinto with a voice of mediocre strength, excellent acting, and a costume that was reminiscent of a B-western rather than of a matador. The redeeming moment for the matadors was their entry from the audience, which encouraged a great deal of ‘paricipaction’, in which the audience enthusiastically engaged. That being said, Smith, shoulders back and more swagger as you came off a good singer but a poor matador and lover.
Before entering the QE, I observed a working girl, outfitted in stilettos, stockings, short shorts, and a cropped top, wending her way to the adjacent Oktoberfest. The sight was a good segue to the debauchery of Carmen: the colourful costumes of the cigarette factory girls and gypsies; the stark sexuality of the gypsy girls trying to make a buck, and the intrinsic sexiness of the smugglers trying to win one over customs agents (not unlike trying to justify cross border shopping to Canada Customs). Similarly, the contrast between Micaela and Don Jose was reminiscent of that fable of the country versus the city mouse, and also put me to mind of the fact that church followers are often sexually repressed and react more immediately to a pretty posterior in their crotch than a more ‘experienced’ counterpart (a.k.a., if Don Jose had been more sexually experienced, would he have fallen for Carmen’s charms right off the bat?).
I particularly loved the second Act, one of debauchery and a good a night out. Particularly impressive was that Aldrich actually wielded castanets in a believable fashion, and seemed to have an iota of knowledge about what a flamenco was. It was very rewarding to see the chaste and stolid Don Jose give way to his passion for his untamed gypsy lover through the medium of dance and emotional bribery.
Overall, the performance was very active, and very engaging, and brought a new interpretation of a traditionally popular opera, which made Bizet’s Carmen feel relevant, pertinent, and current.