It wasn’t inevitable but it also wasn’t entirely surprising that Sunday afternoon’s Carmen by the Fort Worth Opera lacked some of the theatrical punch of the weekend’s two previous powerhouse performances, Cinderella and Dead Man Walking. Those two were truly exceptional.
It’s not that Carmen was a dud. The audience in Bass Performance Hall got its money’s worth in the Carmen of mezzo Beth Clayton, whose creamy voice, seductive appearance and theatrical sense made her a memorable Gypsy.
The performances of the Fort Worth Symphony and the Fort Worth Opera chorus (Joe Illick was conducting) were a significant asset, and stage director John de los Santos’ tradition-respecting ideas were generally effective. In fact, the stabbing of Carmen at the end was one of the most realistic I’ve seen.
But the cast was not consistent. Roger Honeywell as Don José was prone to punching out high notes with little elegance, Sandra Lopez’ Micaela seemed a little bland, and Morgan Smith’s Escamillo was bland vocally though effective otherwise.
The remainder of the cast scored points, both vocally and dramatically.
Allen Charles Klein’s scenery, though attractive, took up too much space, imparting a claustrophobic feeling to the many crowd scenes.
The audience seemed attuned to the performance, and the fact that the hall was sold out was confirmation — as were the performances of Cinderella and Dead Man Walking — that local people are taking the swine-flu alert in stride.
By the way, the text of Carmen was projected in two languages, English and Spanish, while the cast was performing in the original French, with some spoken dialogue.
The Fort Worth Opera’s festival idea — putting all of the operas together rather than spreading them out through the year — seems to be a success. It hearkens back to the days when the Metropolitan Opera used to tour and local opera-going became a kind of marathon.