Crazy for Carmen

by Suzanne Calvin

It marked her American debut so the pressure was on, but French mezzo-soprano--in two performances last weekend--showed herself more than capable of handling the heat, and generating a few extra gigawatts herself.

The reviews are pouring in, including this one from Olin Chism of KERA’s “Art & Seek” who called Sunday’s matinee “a magnificent hello by Villaume and the company” in Emmanuel Villaume’s first appearance as music director of the Dallas Opera. Chism also praised Clementine Margaine as “a joy to hear…a gifted actress who managed, somehow, to make the Gypsy seductress not only sexily fiery and steel-willed, but even occasionally vulnerable.” Read Olin’s review here.

Over at the Dallas Observer, music critic Katie Womack wrote “TDO’s production of Carmen (borrowed from the San Francisco Opera) is traditional, with hefty sets, warm lighting and vibrant period costumes. The chorus — especially the women — sounded strong and confident on Sunday and the children’s choir performed beautifully as both singers and actors, adding some much needed movement and energy to crowd scenes….other highlights included the trio of Margaine with her female cohorts in crime (Audrey Babcock and Danielle Pastin as Mercédès and Frasquita respectively). Babcock and Pastin not only held their own in scenes with the mezzo star, but added to the beauty with stunning vocals that resulted in a sumptuous blend of sound. As the pitiful Micaela, who loses her lover to Carmen’s grasp, Mary Dunleavy also sang with impressive technique.”  Read Katie’s take on the production here.

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, the Classical Music Critic for “Theater Jones,” was thrilled by the performance of Maestro Villaume:  ”Expectations were high as Villaume took the podium for the first time, to sustained applause, and he didn’t disappoint. Right from the first energetic downbeat, brimming with confidence, Villaume took change of the production and with that same gesture, he also assertively took charge of the Dallas Opera itself. As a conductor, Carmen was a triumph for the new maestro. As a Music Director, affirming his credentials of all to see, it gave him a solid launching pad for the future.”

And Gregory considered Brandon Jovanovich’s Don José crucial to the success of the performance, writing, “…tenor Brandon Jovanovich dominated the production. His supple Wagner-sized stentorian tenor produced both thrilling high notes and a gorgeous soft sound. The climax at the end of his flower aria (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”), usually blasted, floated like gossamer. Even better, he is a superb actor. His disintegration from stiff soldier to crazed madman was completely believable, physically as well as vocally.”  Read his “Theater Jones” review right here.

“Dallas Morning News” Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell applauded the casting of the secondary principle roles: “Secondary roles are splendidly cast: Danielle Pastin and Audrey Babcock as Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercédès, Kyle Albertson and John David Boehr as the officers Zuniga and Moralès, William Ferguson and Steven LaBrie as the smugglers Le Remendado and Le Dancaïre.”  He also appreciated Villaume’s leadership at the podium, writing: “The orchestra’s playing was mostly quite fine, Villaume giving it finely considered focus, direction, expression and drama.”  Read Scott’s complete review here.

Over at D Magazine’s “Front Row” blog, reviewer Wayne Lee Gay was captivated by Carmen herself, Clementine Margaine in her American debut: “The sheer force of Margaine’s voice impresses when she turns up the volume. She possesses, at the same time, the magical ability to project apianissimo above the orchestra. She delivers all of this with a beauty of tone that holds up throughout her range.  Margaine likewise infuses her rendition of Carmen with high-heat eroticism, from her constantly surprising interaction with the other performers—yes, even in this most familiar of all operas—to her intriguing caressing of French consonants. There have been many great Carmens of many different nationalities through the years, but Margaine brings a French linguistic and cultural insight that adds unique breadth to the role.”  Read Wayne’s commentary on the production here.

David Weuste, writing for the online publication “Opera Pulse,” also had high praise for Don José: “Brandon Jovanovich as Don José brought perhaps the best voice to the stage (perhaps only second to Mary Dunleavy as Micaëla), with a powerful tenor that rang out over even the most powerful parts of Bizet’s fantastic score. He easily melded his voice throughout the performance to match his fellow singers whether it was the bright Dunleavy or the darker Margaine, and his phrasing always seemed to be in touch with Villaume’s direction of the orchestra.”  Read David’s entire take on the production here.

More to come…better get your tickets now.

Suzanne Calvin, Director of Media and Public Relations

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