COC Carmen Opens

I saw and heard opening night of the Canadian Opera Company’s Carmen tonight at the Four Seasons Centre, a revival of Joel Ivany’s 2016 production. It’s a wonderful take on a well-known work with a very original approach to the last act.

But don’t expect me to tell you. I aim to be spoiler free. To find out see the show. But it’s not odd or a travesty, distorting the work. Bizet would approve.

American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges brings a sultry sound and a smoldering hot stage presence to everyone’s favorite femme fatale. She is especially good in the last scene with tenor Marcelo Puente, and he saved the best for last. I’ve never seen such a hair-raising interpretation for the last pages of the opera.

Marcelo Puente as Don José and J’Nai Bridges as Carmen (photo: Michael Cooper)

It’s not the same as last time (in 2016).

The night was full of terrific performances. Lucas Meachem, whom you may recall as Marcello from the COC’s 2019 La Boheme, was the best Escamillo I’ve ever seen, singing the role really well while swaggering with all the poise of an Elvis.

Lucas Meachem as Escamillo (photo: Michael Cooper)

Joyce El-Khoury gave us a superbly sung Micaëla.

Joyce El-Khoury as Micaëla and Marcelo Puente as Don José (photo: Michael Cooper)

It’s a cast featuring strong Canadian voices such as Alain Coulombe (Zuniga), Alex Halliday (Morales), Ariane Cossette (Frasquita), Alex Hetherington (Mercedes), Jonah Spungin (Dancaïre), and Jean-Philippe Lazure (Remendado).

Ariane Cossette as Frasquita, Alex Hetherington as Mercédès, Jean-Philippe Lazure as Remendado, J’Nai Bridges as Carmen and Jonah Spungin as Le Dancaïre (photo: Michael Cooper)

As with Flying Dutchman that opened last week, the COC lead with their strengths. Their orchestra led by conductor Jacques Lacombe sound superb, the chorus delightful throughout. Ivany’s stage is full of true to life performances, wonderfully authentic from every person or child onstage.

Carmen continues until November 4th at the Four Seasons Centre.

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