Kirstin Chavez as the lusty Carmen is the best thing about Central City Opera’s production of Georges Bizet’s French opera of the same name playing through August 7 at the opera house in Central City.
Carmen is Chavez’s signature role since her debut as the fiery gypsy with Opera Australia in 2008.
The mezzo-soprano’s rich voice and her athleticism (hopping on and off the pool table and often squatting wide-legged) make this Carmen a likable character, if you like bold and bawdy women. She tells the audience who she is in the famous signature song “Habanera” in the opening act—”Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame. . .if you don’t love me, I love you, if I love you, watch yourself!” She proves her titillating talents in her memorable sexy seduction of Corporal Don Jose when she sings the “Seguidilla” aria from a chair with her hands tied behind her back, and later when she dances for him in Act II.
Set in Seville, Spain, and first performed in Paris in 1875, Carmen is a story of love, jealousy and ultimately murder, centered on the untamed gypsy Carmen and her sexual conquests.
The voice of tenor Jonathan Burton as Don Jose blends beautifully with Chavez’s sultry singing, but at first he lacks the passion that would attract a woman like Carmen, mustering it up when jealousy takes over in the final scene. The bullfighter Escamillo, sung by baritone Gustavo Ahualli, looks more like a Wall Street executive than a dashing young toreador who wins Carmen’s love. He delivers a fine “Toreador,” though, another signature song.
The other female lead Micaela, is powerfully sung by Elizabeth Caballero, making her CCO debut. Her lyrical soprano voice soars like a bird and she is believable as the sweet village girl in love with Jose.
Michael Raiford’s sets, David Martin Jacques’ lighting and Sara Jean Tosetti’s costumes contribute mightily to the overall enjoyment. Surprise highlights are a lovely pax de deux by Colorado Ballet dancers and the street urchins played by members of the Colorado Children’s Chorale.
Unlike most operas, there’s a good deal of spoken dialogue in Carmen, typical of the opera comique genre of Bizet’s day. Both the dialogue and singing are in French with English subtitles on a screen over the stage.
Remaining performances of Carmen are July 28, 29, 31 and August 7. Tickets at www.centralcityopera.org or 303-292-6700.