The Death in the Water

“Carmen” at the Bregenz Festival

August 17 th, 2018. By Oxana Arkaeva

Fotos: Bregenz Festival

Passionate spades

The most known opera by George Bizet’s “Carmen” attended on August 17, 2018, at the Bregenz Summer Festival, fulfilled all the expectations of a dazzling open-air opera event, with marvelous, rain-free weather significantly contributing to the success of the evening. Two tattooed females hands, these of a working woman, with broken, dirty nails, emerged from the waters of the Constance lake, holding a cigarette while tossing the flying spades. The only word that comes into mind and can describe the stage design by Es Devlin is: spectacular!

Impressive stage design by Es Devlin

Devlin, who had worked with Adele, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and who equipped the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and London, built an impressive scenery, both functional and visually overwhelming. It not only fits well in the natural surroundings, but it allows an intimate look into the inner life of the stage, providing a number of unique action opportunities. Smartly picked up and integrated by Kasper Holten in his staging, the Lake Constance of coursed had, as always in Bregenz, a part in the success of the production. With the fireworks and boats are not to be missed, and with someone or something always falling, jumping or is plunged into the waters.

Firery dsance the water platform

Thus, in this production, it served as a bath location for the sexy cigar fabric workers in the first act, as fiery seguidilla water battleground in the Lila Pastias act, the boat entrance of Escamiglio and a scene of the tragic death of Carmen, who was drowned, instead of being stabbed. The artful lightning (Bruno Poet) and video projections (Luke Halls) used the surfaces of spades as projections canvas for the impressive lighting effects. They also served as a real-time video transmission screens, showing the close-ups of singers faces, adding new dramatic dimensions, and supporting the drama, by changing colors reflecting the moods of the scenes.

Annalisa Stroppa (Carmen) & Martin Muehle (Jose)

Danish-born Holten, since 2011 the artistic director of the Royal Opera House in London, presented a real drama taking place in the picturesque watery circus manege supported by mostly good singing, acting, and elaborate mass scenes. Visually separating the main characters (Carmen in bright red, and Jose in biting yellow. Striking costumes by Anja Vang Kragh ), he created recognizable characters, both likable and intriguing, and succeeded in combing the visual opportunities of the spectacle of this scale with an intimate portrayal of individual characters. The singers’ team proved they could not only sing but were capable of enduring the strengthening stage actions physically. In general, the ensemble was well selected, presenting good voices, impressive acting skills, though some had difficulties in articulating French, thus creating the problems with text understanding.

L´amour est un oiseaux rebelle

Zuniga, sung by Yasushi Hirano, opened up the evening singing with clear, noble-sounding voice, and excellent French diction. Carmen by Italian Mezzo Annalisa Stroppa presented at the beginning a heavy, Slavik- like sound, with the voice kept inside and vocals sounding narrow. Her singing had very little legato, and she mostly made an impression as a good actress, who had no fear to jump in the lake. Curiously this sporting exercise seemed to do the singer and her voice good, as afterward her voice sounded more full, released, and sexy. In the course of the performance, she seems to develop more freedom, and whenever the action onstage would overcome her, she seemed to forget about the voice and sounded more free and easy. Slowenien soprano Mojca Bitenc looked very good even from afar and sang the role of Michaela, despite the demanding physical acting, with a lovely, rich voice. Unfortunately, her French had quite a heavy Slavik accent, which in overall diminished the impression of her likable performance.

Brutal ending of the a languid love

The German-Brazilian tenor Martin Muehle greatly succeed in creating a pitiful character of a nervous freak, without any control over his desperation and emotions. He gave a remarkable, highly realistic performance in the last scene, but unfortunately forced his voice almost through the performance, with only “la Fleur” aria being sung beautifully well. The most memorable performance on this evening was delivered by Lithuanian Bariton Kostas Smoriginas. He did not only looked smashingly good, but sang with the most beautiful voice, smooth, full, and big, exceptional French diction and who acted naturally. The rest of ensemble gave a homogeneous singing crowd with Léonie Renaud (Frasquita), Marion Lebègue (Mercédès), Wolfgang Stefan Schwaiger (Moralès), István Horváth (Remendado), and Dariusz Perczak (Dancaïro): all, without exception, presenting good, well-blending voices and acting skills.

Spectacular end of an impressive opera night

The Wired Aerial Theatre  Company, dancers, and extras, as well as the members of the  Bregenz Festival Chorus, Prague Philharmonic Choir and the Children’s choir of music school of the city of Bregenz, all gave their best, making the evening even more memorable. The Wiener  Symphoniker under the button of Jordan de Souza displayed an energetic, brisk, picturesque, temperamental and very symphonic sound. At times it acted as an individual part of the drama, complimenting the action by thoughtful, romantic (intermezzo of the second act), and longing (intermission of the third act) sound. A watchful and attentive stage companion, de Souza succeeded in creating acoustically well-balanced and singers-friendly atmosphere. At the end of the performance, the obligatory fireworks lighted up the dark blue skies giving the best ending to the tragically beautiful love story and unforgettable opera evening. The upcoming summer in Bregenz from July 17 till August 18, 2019, offers a diverse program of exciting events like symphony concerts of Vienna and Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestras conducted by Fabio Luisi, Philippe Jordan, and Ariane Matiakh. It presents various cross-cultural, and Opera Atelier insight sessions, the drama theatre production of the Miguel Servantes “Don Quixote,” and two major new opera production: “Rigoberto” by Giuseppe Verdi and “Don Quichotte” by Jules Massenet productions. More information and tickets can be acquired at

LEADING TEAM: Staging: Kasper Holten
Music director: Jordan de Souza Bühne: Es Devlin Video: Luke Halls Costumes: Anja Vang Kragh Licht: Bruno Poet

CAST: Carmen: Annalisa Stroppa
Don José: Martin Muehle
Escamillo: Kostas Smoriginas
Micaëla: Mojca Bitenc
Frasquita: Léonie Renaud
Mercédès: Marion Lebègue
Zuniga: Yasushi Hirano
Moralès: Wolfgang Stefan Schwaiger
Remendado: István Horváth
Dancaïro: Dariusz Perczak Wired Aerial Theatre |​ Dancers |​ Extras Bregenz Festival Choir
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Children’s choir of Musikmittelschule Bregenz-Stadt
The Wiener  Symphoniker​

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