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In performance: National Philharmonic's concert "Carmen"

Web-only review:

Lukewarm Carmen picks up steam at end
by Joe Banno

I'm not sure how Bizet's opera "Carmen" really benefits from a concert performance. The atmospheric scoring registers pretty vividly from the average opera house pit, without the orchestra needing to be put front-and-center. And this love-gone-homicidal tale -- so effectively dramatized by the composer -- cries out for the greasepaint and footlights to grab an audience by the throat.
(read more after the jump)

At the National Philharmonic's "Carmen"-in-concert on Saturday at Strathmore Hall, some halfhearted blocking and mimed stage business came to life only in the final scene, when tenor Daniel Snyder and mezzo Kendall Gladen upped the stakes and acted it as if the concert had blossomed into a full-scale production. The quiet intensity of Snyder's Don Jose throughout the evening, in fact, proved the dramatic focus of the performance, while the blend of easy sensuality and dignity in Gladen's Carmen brought a welcome respite from the role's oft-encountered histrionics.

Gladen's velvety tone and impressive chest voice also deserved praise, as did the thrilling ring and passionate phrasing in much of Snyder's singing. The other soloists ranged from the elegant Zuniga of bass James Shaffran to the lovely, if small-scaled, Micaela of soprano Theresa Santiago to baritone Dean Elzinga's rather tepid and under-powered Escamillo.

The orchestra and National Philharmonic Chorale gave a well-disciplined, warmly blended account of the score under Piotr Gajewski's baton. But the narration by Strathmore's president and CEO, Eliot Pfanstiehl (offered in lieu of dialogue, recitative or supertitles), was a tangle of mispronounced character names and ain't-opera-quaint condescension.

-- Joe Banno

Edited to add: Any comments on this or other weekend operas, notably the Met's "Rosenkavalier" broadcast?

By Anne Midgette  |  January 11, 2010; 6:05 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Next: In performance: 1610 Vespers


Thanks for the review. We were tempted to go but decided against a concert performance and your review proved that it was the right decision. We saw Carmen at the Met on New Year's Eve and it was one of the best we've seen in years. We bought the tickets a long time ago when Gheorghiu was supposed to be Carmen but due to her separation from Alagna that did not happen. However, we were thrilled to see Garanca as Carmen. Looking forward to see it again at the movies on Saturday. As for the "Rosenkavalier" it was a joy to be at the movies and listen to the three beautiful ladies filling the room with their beautiful voices. As opera lovers we are very fortunate to have these great options to attend such high caliber performances.

Posted by: Mike-Klein | January 11, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I mostly enjoyed this one, although I am informed by far less knowledge about opera than Joe Banno is:

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 11, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

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