Grand finales

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  June 3, 2008

Carmen needs a strong cast, and this performance had one. Tenor Adam Klein doesn’t have a meltingly beautiful voice, but his grim ferocity made Don José’s murder of Carmen inevitable. Young Armenian-American soprano Nouné Karapetian as Micaela had a distinctive timbre, a lovely presence, and a tendency to sing a hair off pitch. Veteran Boston baritone Robert Honeysucker sang the bullfighter Escamillo with eloquence and tonal radiance. His “Toreador Song” was the song of seduction Bizet intended. His was the most thoroughly satisfying performance — and not for the first time. John Gomez and Gregg Jacobson were lively smugglers, and Sarah Beckham and Sara Bielanski were appealing as Carmen’s Gypsy pals (the mercurial second-act quintet was a high point).

According to her bio, mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood has sung Carmen more than 200 times, and that includes performances at the Met. She has a voice of extraordinary power, beauty, and range. But as with her Dalila in CpM’s 2005 Samson et Dalila, she was playing to the fourth balcony, and Jordan Hall has only one. She was in character from the moment she entered to the moment she left the stage, even miming conversation when she wasn’t singing. She played the castanets, struck her tambourine against her knee and butt, did a Gypsy dance, winked at members of the audience, swigged from a wine bottle, even mopped Rink’s neck with her hanky during the “Habanera.” When Carmen throws back at Don José the ring he’d given her, Livengood bit it off her finger and spat it at him! But little seemed spontaneous. After 200 Carmens, she indeed knows what works. Yet her conception was a cliché, the campy vamp rather than the tragic heroine who needs her freedom more than any lover and realizes that someday she’ll die for it. Still, it was certainly a performance.

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