Benjamin Franklin said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. However, he left out another important certainty: when MasterVoices puts on a show, it is always worth seeing.
Photo: Erin Baiano
Carmen, which MasterVoices recently presented, is a case in point. Although a concert production, it was fully performed, with top-of-the-line soloists, the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke's, enough costumes to set the scene and the mood, dancers, and that fabulous 120+ person chorus. Ted Sperling, MasterVoices's artistic director and general all-round gift to New York, led a lucid, energetic performance of the original Paris Opera Comique, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. It was a truly delightful evening, except for one thing. And that thing is not the fault of MasterVoices--it's Carmen itself, going back to the novel by Prosper Mérimée.
Carmen (beautifully sung and acted by Ginger Costa-Jackson) could not be more open about who she is and what she wants. She explains, clearly, that the most important thing to her is freedom. She adds, in paraphrase, "If you love me, I won't love you. If you don't love me, I might love you. If we love each other at the same time, boy, are you in trouble." This is not a woman who wants to settle down. So, as occurs in about a million books, operas, and shows, after Corporal Don José, madly in love with Carmen, cannot force her to "be true" to him, he calls her a whore and kills her.
Yes, the piece is of its time. Yes, it's just a show. Yes, people are spending too much time focusing on trees rather than forests these days. I get it! But, the bottom line for me, and for the friend I saw the show with, is that, yet again, we see a woman killed for not being who a man wants her to be. And Carmen is a fabulous vibrant character. She kicks ass. I wish she had kicked Don José's.
But it was a great production.
It always frustrates me that MasterVoices performances come and go so quickly, and that I can't tell you in time to make sure to catch them. But, since it's pretty much certain that their upcoming shows will be at least worthwhile and possibly wonderful, click here to get more info and perhaps tickets for the rest of their season.