Carmen. The chronicle of proclaimed murder!
A stirring performance of G. Bizet´s “Carmen” at the Mixed Munich Arts, Germany
Premiere on September 2nd, 2017. By Opera Views, 09.09.2017
The impressive concrete and cement-built hall of the Mixed Munich Arts is definitely a spectacular location. A boiler-room of the former Nazi heat and power station, it rises high up, is long-stretched and has three different levels and balcony supported by tall concrete columns. It’s cold, harsh atmosphere perfectly suits the merciless and dreary story of G. Bizet’s “Carmen” and would surely tempt any stage director to create a performance full of realistic actions and hyper-physical intensity.
Andreas Wiedermann cleverly used the given scenery and staged an exciting love-triangle thriller full of love, passion, infidelity, jealousy, betrayal and tragic death. With the help of minimalistic but artful lighting, he transformed the space from the bullfight arena to the hideout of smugglers, Lillas Pastia’s tavern and the courtyard of the oriental garment fabric. Already before the beginning, we see the sewing seamstresses sitting on the balcony. They are being guarded by a soldier, an Iraqi refugee, (Sarmad Fuad) who looks like a criminal and sings with authentic feeling a nostalgic Arabic song. Wiedermann replaces most of Spaniards by migrants whom, especially the male part, he directs to act as a bold, constantly fighting, reckless roughneck crowd, that pushes and shoves the women and smuggles weapons and drugs.
One admires an amount of agility and energy that stage director managed to trigger out of this mixed multicultural mass. Whether “Culture Shelter” refugee choir or children’s choir “Harmony”, all performers have lots of fun singing, acting and just being at the centre of attention. This is also quite necessary since the story is told from the end and for non-theatre goers, it might take a while to get in. The show commences with the final José/Carmen scene in the act four and runs backwards presenting an unexpected, but quite a powerful, new perspective on the story and character’s motivation.
Like the one of José whom we witness in his backwards transformation from a desperate, hopeless, betrayed, naive lover to an initially courageous, honest young man. Tenor Anton Klotzner sings with powerful, big voice and delivers well-sung “La fleur queue tu mávais jetée” aria in act two with superb high B flat. Cornelia Lanz, the founder and artistic director of the “Culture Shelter” who is also Carmen on this evening, sings with clear and well-focused voice. This Carmen is not, as usually done, a femme fatale, but a modern, beautiful, sensual woman. Desired by all men and selling her love for a precious gift, she is the one, who longs for a true love but must fight to survive.
Torsten Petsch has big, edgy baritone voice and is a great actor. His Escamillio is a motorcycle-macho, a showman with a gold necklace and pilot glasses, though not the bravest one who needs drugs to gain some courage.
Julia Bachmann as Michaela has a rich, full soprano voice that perfectly suits this rewarding part. Anne Elizabeth Sorbara as Frasquita and Judith Beifuß as Mercedes both have beautiful, well-blending voices and are authentic in their acting.
One of the highlights of this production is the “La Liberté” choir in act two, where the whole crowd is trying to escape but is blocked by closed doors. One cannot help but think of hundreds of refugees fleeing the war zones and facing closed European borders. Another highlight is a numerous recurrence of Arabic songs as musical inserts. The sisters Walaa and Wisam Kanaieh sang authentically heartbreaking with beautiful voices, making you forget the original story and reflect on the individual fate of every single refugee involved in the performance.
Acoustically, the MMA location is a problematic one. It might help to augment the voices, makes at the same time the perception of the singing quite difficult as it has a significant echo-like delay. Conductor Ernst Bartmann, the musical director of the ensemble of “Opera incognita”, had first to overcome these difficulties and to keep up an acoustic balance between performers and orchestra. In the course of the evening he, however, succeeded in achieving a better one and created touching moments including the duet of Michaela and José, the Gershwin-like, sexy-swinging dance of Carmen in the first act and famous aria of Michaela in the third act.
The producers of “Opera Incognita” have to be acknowledged for their innovative, up-to-date idea of performing rare operas at unusual venues and with an uncommon cast. Experiencing this energetic and full of speed performance, the long-term opera fans as well as the young, growing-up theatre audience is offered here a spectacular show and the perfect entry into the world of the opera. A special praise goes to Cornelia Lanz for her indispensable engagement in promotion refugee’s cultural integration and whose “Culture Shelter” was initiated long before German chancellor opened countries borders in 2015.
In the end, the blood-stained, dead Carmen is suspended from the ceiling like an epitome of a holy sacrifice. A Hebrew cantor Yoed Sorek sings a beautiful Death Song in Caddish, thus, for a moment creating an illusion of a peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs. From above we again hear a rattling of the sewing machines and lively chat of seamstresses. In this unfair, brutal world, the human life has no value and the happiness is just a beautiful vision. One drama is over, and the next one is about to commence-the show/life must go on! Next performances on September 13th, 15th and 16th at 7:30 p.m. For more information, location and tickets check here: Zuflucht Kultur
Cast Conductor: Ernst Bartmann
Staging: Andreas Wiedermann
Costumes: Bianca Hedwig-Schmid
Carmen: Cornelia Lanz
Don José: Anton Klotzner
Micaëla: Julia Bachmann
Escamillo: Torsten Petsch
Frasquita: Anne Elizabeth Sorbara
Mercédès: Judith Beifuß
Maria: Wisam Kanaieh
Manuelita: Walaa Kanaieh
Refugee choirs “Culture Shelter” and “Harmony” Production: “Culture Shelter” and “Opera Incognita”