Miami Lyric Opera’s concert “Carmen” a mixed bag of Bizet

By Lawrence Budmen

          Georges Bizet’s  operatic masterwork Carmen is virtually indestructible.  Even in less than stellar performances, this tale of a gypsy temptress who brings down a tarnished nobleman can be a moving and exciting evening of music theater. With a score bathed in melodies that have long since transcended operatic status to become true standards, Carmen is a multi-layered tour de force.  

            Due to the current economic problems that have plagued many cultural organizations, Miami Lyric Opera presented a concert version of this classic score rather than a fully staged production Thursday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. With most of the choral music shorn, the evening might have been dubbed “Carmen’s Greatest Hits.”  Only Act II was presented in substantially complete form.  

             Artistic director Raffaele Cardone’s mini-staging effectively suggested drama and emotion with singers in formal attire.  The scrappy twenty-two piece orchestra could hardly approximate Bizet’s brilliant, colorful instrumental writing. Missed entrances and wind and brass fluffs abounded while the strings exhibited uncertain intonation. Doris Lang Kosloff’s conducting was more pedantic than inspirational; but she managed the ensembles with a firm hand. A seven-member vocal group essayed the remaining chorus scenes with aplomb.  

            Sondra Kelly, a Met veteran, proved vocally agile in the title role. Sporting a flaming red gown, this femme fatale dominated every scene. Her solid, deftly phrased Habanera basked in rich, dark mezzo tones. Although Kelly’s Seguidilla needed greater lightness and seductive allure (in the manner of Victoria de los Angeles), her climactic La Liberte in Act II rang the house. When the cards foretold the protagonist’s fate, Kelly projected shock and horror through the sheer intensity of her dusky chest register. This was clearly a Carmen to be reckoned with. 

            James Charles Taylor was overparted in Don Jose’s declamatory outbursts but he deployed his dulcet lyric tenor with an elevated sense of refined Gallic style. In the final confrontation Kelly and Taylor elicited musico-dramatic fireworks.   

            As Escamillo, Nelson Martinez unfurled a manly baritone, managing the show- stopping Toreador Song with some semblance of elegance.  In confrontation with Don Jose, he spun reams of burnished legato, projecting power without hectoring.. Roseanne Ackerley’s shrillness in the upper register and tendency to scoop up to notes robbed Micaela’s scenes of their lyricism and poignancy. Diego Baner’s suave, mellow bass made the most of Zuniga’s limited opportunities. Like its heroine, this Carmen was definitely more than the sum of its parts.  

            Miami Lyric Opera’s concert version of Carmen will be repeated  8 p.m. Saturday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.; 305-674-1040. 
             Lawrence Budmen is a freelance writer based in Miami. A former cellist and teacher, his reviews have been published in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Coral Gables Gazette and can also be found on his website at  



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Fri Sep 25, 2009
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