At Metropolitan Opera, Bizet’s Carmen has become a well-worn favorite; however, at this latest revival, even the debuts of Clémentine Margaine and Rafael Davila were not enough to make this a particularly memorable evening. Richard Eyre’s once-gritty production has faded into monotony as performers struggle to bring personal nuance into over-rehearsed gestures. Furthermore, despite refined playing in the entr’actes, Asher Fisch was not able to keep the Met Orchestra from lapsing into routine.
Replacing an ailing Sophie Koch, Margaine used her waxy penetrating timbre, husky middle voice, and cutting high notes to seduce the man around her. Her vocals are more dramatic than beautiful, at times becoming stylized and sensually bending her pitch. Still, she must be commended for throwing herself bodily into her portrayal, at times singing while held aloft by dancers or being dragged across the stage during the violent final encounter with Don José.
Davila, a last-minute substitute for Marcelo Álvarez, sang Don José with a dark and burnished timbre, his top notes bright and secure, but he could be heard shifting abruptly between vocal registers, and he essayed the role with little emotional connection.
Kyle Ketelsen’s ruggedly handsome Escamillo exuded confidence with a robust and alluring tone. Don José had no chance against the toreador’s self-assured sex-appeal. To Micaëla Maria Agrest brought a plush, rounded sound and a polished rendition of the character’s moving Act Three aria.
As Frasquita and Mercédès respectively, Shirin Eskandani and Danielle Talamantes made much of their appearances, and with winning enthusiasm, whereas Nicolas Testé was a rigid Zuniga and Eduardo Valdes and Malcolm MacKenzie were passable in their roles. There are always Bizet’s tunes to salvage things.