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Ekaterina Kretova

24 March 2007

Galina Vishnevskaya’s Opera Centre premiered a new production of the opera Carmen by G. Bizet, the beloved opera of all the times. Against fashions and rules it is sung in the Russian language, and the production does not try to modify the classical masterpiece adding to it some imbecile modern plot features.

Public, coming to see Carmen to this magnificent, as if court theatre with a tiny hall, but which has perfect acoustics, full-scale orchestra-pit and dimensioned stage, will see something practically exclusive for the contemporary operatic theatre – the genuine plot of Bizet’s opera, unchanged and unturned upside down. They will see a true Carmen in a gypsy’s clothes and with a scarlet flower in the hair (costume designer – Alla Kozhenkova) and a true Jose – first, an officer, then a soldier and, finally, an unlucky smuggler. Someone might think that Ivan Popovsky, the director, presents the mise en scenes in a quiet commonplace way, but, who knows, probably it is such banality that allows the spectator to feel the immortality of Prosper Merime’s plot in our epoch of directors’ aggression. Oksana Kornievskaya as Carmen restores the forgotten performing traditions of this part and recalls in the memory such stars as Elena Obraztsova, for example. The image created by Kornievskaya – bright, aggressive, and expansive – does well with the temperament of Oleg Dolgov. The only thing lacking is the attention to each other in the ensembles. The same can be said about other singers: they strive for outvoicing the partner due to youth and inexperience which still has to be overcome.

The Russian language fits very well. It is not only because it is nice to understand everything without looking at the electronic panel. Probably, the Russian operatic theatre has already gone through the epoch of snobbism, when all the theatres – at least, all the capital theatres – passed on to original languages quickly not to be reputed crap. Galina Vishnevskaya, who knows about the world operatic theatre more than anyone else, is not afraid of it and prefers good Russian to bad French. However, as long as the Russian language was chosen, it would be logical to turn to the author’s version of the opera with spoken dialogues – Giro’s recitals do not contribute to the plot’s understanding at all, they only slow the action down.

By way of contrast to the general traditional interpretation of the performance, the scenography by Alexey Porai-Koshitsa stands out. In its basis there is a vanguard form-factor of broken lines. In the centre – a sculpture of metallic rods, many of which decorate public places in the European cities. It is difficult to say what it is motivated by. Instead, the tobacco factory – Carmen’s last work-place – is shown regardless all the new European laws about smoking restrictions in public places: everybody smokes there – girls, officers, and soldiers. Even Carmen herself.