It’s nearly five years since I saw the MetHD broadcast of Carmen with Alagna and Garanča. I remember being quite impressed at the time. Watching it again on Blu-ray I came away with a less favourable impression. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not. It just feels a bit lacklustre in a very crowded field. Let’s start with the positives. Elina Garanča is a very good Carmen. She sings superbly and grows into the role dramatically as the work progresses. She’s also a very good dancer and the production exploits that. In fact dance is used very well throughout with specialist dancers used to stage a sort of prologue to each act as well as the obvious places being reinforced with “real” dancers. As always, the Met doesn’t stint on this element and the dancers used are first rate.
The cast is generally pretty strong. Barbara Frittoli is an affecting Micaëla, singing consistently sweetly and generally inhabiting the role convincingly. Keith Miller is a more interesting Zuniga than most with a distinct touch of menace. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a bit dry toned but he’s a commanding physical presence as Escamillo. Chorus and Orchestra are just fine and Yannick Nézet-Seguin, making his Met debut, conducts a lively and atmospheric reading of the score.
So, what’s not to like so much? I found Roberto Alagna’s Don José musically and dramatically one dimensional. There’s no real sense of moral degeneration and he tends to bleat. It’s not that he can’t do the role. He’s first class in the Bieito production but here he just doesn’t seem to get into it. Maybe he just wasn’t enamoured of Richard Eyre’s production? It’s traditional and doesn’t have much to say. It’s also very busy with lots of people and props on a very crowded stage. I found it fatiguing especially when compared to Matthew Hartmann’s starkly simple staging.
The busyness of the staging isn’t helped by Gary Halvorson’s characteristically claustrophobic video direction. It’s his usual mix of close ups and odd angles. Also, the “walk off” interviews and act introductions (Renèe Fleming) are left in the main track rather than moved to a bonus track which had me reaching for the “skip” button. The longer interviews are left as separate features. Picture and sound (DTS HD surround) are the usual MetHD high standard and there are French, German, English, Spanish and Chinese subtitles. The booklet has an essay, synopsis and detailed track listing.