A new production of
stirs a mini-International Controversy,
by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
It might seem like an operetta. The Mexican Ambassador to the Italian Republic wrote a formal letter to the Italian
Head of State and copied it to all the major newspapers, after the
premiere (28 June 2017) of a new production of Bizet's Carmen. This was the opening night of the SummerSeason at the Terme di Caracalla open air theater
which is set within outstanding Roman ruins. The complaint was that the production
was set in the present time, near to the wall being built to separate Mexico from the United States, as well as in the American Rushmore mountain and valley. I do not know
whether the Italian Head of State took time to reply to the Ambassador.
In my view, I would have believed equally laughable but more
understandable a protest by the American Ambassador. In any event, Teatro dell'Opera
di Roma is an independent
organization and not part of the public administration.
The production is set by
the Argentine Valentina Carrasco in Trump's times. The
policemen in charge of guarding the wall are quite rough. The Lilìa
Pastìa tavern is a crowded brothel in American territory. In Rushmore,
under the statues of prominent US Presidents, drug trafficking
flourishes. Enough to annoy a red blooded American boy, especially if conservative. But he did not
bother me a bit when I saw the 2 July 2017 performance. On the contrary, I found it an intelligent way of rendering Carmen, one of the world's most performed operas, according to the statistics of Operabase.
Valentina Carrasco is an
internally known stage director; for a number of years she was part of the Catalan group La Fura dels Baus. Back in Argentina, she signed a very innovative WagnerRing at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. You could not expect a traditionalCarmen from Carrasco and her
collaborators (Samal Blak, sets, Luis Carvalho, costumes and Erika Rombaldoni and Massimiliano Volpini, choreography). As a matter of fact, Carrasco's Carmen
is less shocking today than apparently the opera was at the Opéra Comique premiere in 1875. When
the work toured to Vienna, the
rough but effectiveorchestration had
to be mellowed, and the spoken parts transformed into recitative with orchestralaccompaniment. Of
the large variety of
versions of Carmen, Rome
Opera's new production maintains the original but
effective orchestration anticipating expressionism. However, the
recitatives are those with Ernest Guiraud's music. The acting is
quite good and the movement of the masses excellent.
There were problems in
the pit. The orchestra rendered the colors very well and was high
class in the symphonic pieces. However, the eighty-year-old conductor Jesús López-Cobos has seen better times: he
seemed to lack the vigor required for Carmen, especially in the
most dramaticpassages, and tended to slow the tempos.