La Tragedie de Carmen At Hubbard Hall
a review by Alex Brooks
The Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre has opened a new production of La Tragedie de Carmen, running through August 23. This is an adaptation created in 1981 by the celebrated English director Peter Brook and several other collaborators, with libretto by Sheldon Harnick. Those expecting the grand spectacle of the original Carmen, with its multiple choruses and grand production numbers, will not find it here. In this version, the story is boiled down to its essential elements, leaving four singers and two other speaking parts and a production that runs an hour and ten minutes with no intermission. The story thus moves at a dizzying pace and sometimes seems to progress faster than we can take it in. Carmen seems barely to have begun her love affair with the soldier Don Jose when she begins to fall in love with the bullfighter Escamillo, and Don Jose’s disintegration under the spell of Carmen proceeds at an alarming pace.
But this production is by no means lesser than larger productions of the traditional version, because of an extraordinary performance by Kara Cornell as Carmen. She is by turns imperious, sultry, passionate, and devious – everything that a great Carmen should be. The great crowd pleasing music is still here, sung solo rather than with the big choruses, and Cornell’s renditions of “La Habanera” and “The Flower Song” are delightful.
The high point of the opera is the scene in which Carmen is seducing Don Jose while he is leading her off to jail. The choreography, by MK Lawson, involving the rope he is leading her by, is lovely.
So by all means at some point in your life catch a production of the traditional Carmen with all the bells and whistles. But when you do, you will not get the experience offered at this Hubbard Hall opera – of experiencing in an intimate setting a first rate portrayal of Carmen by a performer of Cornell’s immense talent.
Remaining performances are Thursday through Saturday, August 20-22, at 8 pm and Sunday, August 23, at 2 pm. For tickets, you can call the Hubbard Hall box office at 677-2495 until Friday at 5 pm. Tickets will also be sold at the door, but, of course, there is a possibility that some of the shows will sell out.