Critics applaud women in La Scala's 'Carmen'

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2009 3:40 PM

If the critics are right, La Scala's production of Bizet's "Carmen" could well give new force to the role of women in Italian opera.

They cited Sicilian-born Emma Dante's "truthful" and "concentrated" staging coupled with the triumphant premiere of 25-year-old Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role at the famed Milanese opera house.

"You can't help but remain in admiration of the strength and of the 'truth' in this theatrical staging," wrote Corriere della Sera opera critic Paolo Isotta in the hometown daily Tuesday.

Financial daily Il Sole-24 Ore called the production "a breath of fresh air," saying that conductor Daniel Barenboim had won the bets he placed on Dante, a theatrical director making her first foray into opera, and Rachvelishvili, a graduate of La Scala's academy.

Michelangelo Zurletti wrote in "La Repubblica: "The predictable boos weren't missing, but who knows if future Carmens won't begin from here."

The uncontested heroine of the evening was the Rachvelishvili, showered by applause and flowers for her performance.

"On the stage, Rachvelishvili is a fascinating Carmen. She has everything: theatrical presence, a substantial voice, agile and lively in the songs of seduction, sanguine but always velvety in the tragic invectives," wrote La Stampa's Giorgio Pestelli.

Dante, who endured catcalls and boos from the infamous loggionisti in La Scala's highest tiers after the curtain closed, was praised by the professional critics.

Pestelli wrote that Dante imbued the production with a "spiritual tension" and "a vision so concentrated that new inventions emerge, many of them are unconventional."

While the female protagonists of Monday evening's gala premiere grabbed most of the attention, the male players were not forgotten.

German tenor "Jonas Kaufmann sang Don Jose with a sweetness and passionate abandon," wrote Pestelli. Baritone Erwin Schrott as Escamillo has "a beautiful voice and character with new reflexes," he added.

But the triumphant opening night belonged to the women.

"At the very end, this Carmen is a good signal in our times of gloomy crisis. Because it is a premiere of women, and we know that it is always the women, when the going gets tough, who play the hardest of them all," wrote Pestelli's colleague at La Stampa, Alberto Mattioli.