Photo by Lynn Lane An opera that plays like a Broadway show -- and that's a good thing
If there's one opera in the rep that lends itself to a Broadway makeover, it's Georges Bizet's evergreen and surprisingly modern tale of bad girl Carmen and her wayward love life. In its original 1875 form, the piece had spoken dialogue between the music passages, what the French called an opera-comique, what we now call a musical.
After a lukewarm Paris premiere - a few of the reviews were downright vicious, some were OK, not one was a rave - and Bizet's early death only four months later, the opera, supplemented with musical recitatives instead of dialogue, made a big splash in Vienna. The wise Austrians turned the tide for this archetypal wild lady of Spain. The work has made a splash ever since. Although there is no critical edition of the score and the opera's been tinkered with even before Vienna, what the Parisians reviled for its coarseness and bad taste has now joined the pantheon of opera masterpieces.
Even when sung through, as is this Houston Grand Opera co-production with San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, Carmen's still like a Broadway show. A very great one.