muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[personal profile] muckefuck
I don't know much about Lawrence A. Johnson except thay he saved me a tonne of time in writing my review of Lyric's Carmen:http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/2017/02/inept-direction-miscast-mezzo-plunge-a-knife-into-lyric-operas-lightweight-carmen/. Our only significant point of disagreement seems to be Calleja, who sounded a lot less like goat this time around, but ever since Nuphy made that comparison I can't unhear it. Plus I think it's mostly by default that he ends up being the best actor onstage, but maybe I just haven't seen him in enough stuff yet. (I skipped Roméo et Juliette last year because (a) shit was happening and (b) I'm already at great enough risk for diabetes as it is.)

Nuphy called it the worst Carmen he's ever seen, which makes it my worst, too, since I haven't seen one he hasn't. And we weren't alone. Walking to the el, I ended up alongside a woman who exploded, "Excuse me, but where was the sex?" Nuphy called Gubanova's Carmen "motherly", and I can hardly think of a more damning adjective to use. The contrast between her and Micaëla, which should be night and day, barely registers. And I don't know why Ashford included that slap at the end of Act 2 unless he somehow thought that an early 19th-century work just didn't include enough violence against women? Maybe it was an attempt to build sympathy for her, but it just further neuters an already weak characterisation.

The one good thing about it was the dancing, particularly the number at the start of Act 3. But the director loves his choreography so much he kept sticking it where it didn't belong. I think Johnson's right: he doesn't understand the dramatic arc at all so he can't tell when he's distracting from it (which was basically always). The one place I felt his minotaur ballerino would've worked (when Escamillo recaps his victory) is the one place he didn't use him. Any niggling suspicion I might've had that Ashford isn't a complete hack was banished by the interview with him in the back of the programme. He explains that he decided to set the opera during the Spanish Civil War (because apparently that is his only cultural reference point for anything having to do with Spain) and took his inspiration from Guernica because there was a bull in it. I didn't get that in the staging at all; if he hadn't told us outright, I'd have no idea.

I'm glad we have one more opera in the season because it would have been a real bummer to end it on this one. Over dinner at Pata Negra (which was excellent and not nearly so expensive because we'd learned our lesson and didn't overorder), Nuphy broke the news that he wants to upgrade to premium seats. I was so unimpressed with next season that I was questioning whether I wanted to renew at all and that cinched it. I'll get the occasional single ticket so I can join him (definitely Walküre, maybe Puritani) but after more than 20 years of subscribing I've reached a real point of diminishing returns.

I'm sad about losing a fixed rendezvous, since I'm terrible at planning and won't see as much of Nuphy if each time requires an effort. On the other hand, I've been mumbling for years about diversifying my cultural consumption. I basically never see films any more and I can't remember the last time I caught a live theatre performance, which is a real crime when you live in Chicago. So if there's something you think is worth seeing, hit me up.
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