June 29, 2019
|J'Nai Bridges as Carmen. Photos by Cory Weaver.|
One could also guess that she made certain of the production's physical, rough edge. Rather than have the cigarette girls narrate the fight that had just happened, for instance, she brought Carmen and her rival out to throw each other around as the girls did a sort of play-by-play. The fight between Don Jose and Escamillo is also superb (fight coach Dave Maier). The final confrontation between Jose and Carmen escalates into a wrestling match before an excellent stabbing. I get the feeling that this cast often went home nursing real bruises, and I applaud their commitment.
|Kyle Ketelson as Escamillo.|
Matthew Polenzani delivers the full range of Don Jose's psychological journey, from disinterested boy scout to impassioned lover to obsessed ex-boyfriend. His final scene is a vivid study of desperation strategies: tender forgiveness, pleading, begging, threatening, and finally violence. Vocally, Polenzani's lyric tenor is a gift from the heavens, an absolute pleasure. His Flower Song may be the best I've ever heard, ending with heartbreaking high pianissimos.
|Matthew Polenzani as Don Jose.|
As Micaela, Anita Hartig delivered a touching presence, but she missed a chance to convey her character's undercover strength and passion. Both her acting and singing lack a certain charisma, particularly in the aria "Je dis que rien me n'epouvante." There's an easy notion that Micaela is the good girl next door, but her courage in climbing the mountains and facing down a band of smugglers in order to save her boyfriend say otherwise.
|Kyle Ketelson as Escamillo, J'Nai Bridges as Carmen.|
Conductor Michelle Merrill led a spirited, punchy performance that brought out Bizet's radical percussion innovations. The Act 3 entr'acte gets more lovely each time I hear it, this time featuring Julie McKenzie on flute.
This was the final performance. SFO's fall season includes Romeo and Juliet, Billy Budd, a Placido Domingo gala, The Marriage of Figaro, Puccini's Manon Lescaut, and Hansel and Gretel. sfopera.com, 415-864-3330.
Michael J. Vaughn is the author of 22 novels, including his most recent, A Painting Called Sylvia.