As I noted in an earlier post, mezzo soprano Elina Garanca sang Carmen in the Metropolitan Opera’s January 2010 production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, which I saw in May on PBS. I love the intelligence, humor and playfulness that Ms. Garanca brings to Carmen, that her Carmen is a woman of enormous courage rather than spoiled and defiant, and how she elevates Carmen’s sensuality — I love how she changed the opera for me completely. When Carmen is played as a cruel and capricious slut who ruins Don José and has it coming when he murders her, all we have is a musical morality play with some catchy tunes. However, with Ms. Garanca’s personality illuminating the character I see a different kind of tragedy — that at the crucial turning points, luck tipped one way rather than another, so that when Carmen was making her plays for the stronger men (Zuniga, the officer, and Escamillo, the toreador) she got stuck with the weak Don José instead, who could not admit that he was the author of his ruin and made Carmen pay for his shame, which is a different and more complex experience than “slutty woman gets killed for ruining a good man.”
As I was listening to YouTube videos featuring Ms. Garanca, I was fascinated by these two performances of “The Gypsy Song” because they demonstrate how differently conductors may interpret the same music. I see the value of the faster version, but the effect the slower one has on me is vastly more sensual and erotic. I’d love to know what my dear gentle readers have to say about the contrast.
Oh, and I can’t resist adding — how utterly beautiful Elina Garanca is! And, being me, I must add that she strikes me as having the kind of personality that will make her beautiful always.
Click the link for the lyrics of “Chanson Boheme,” or, “The Gypsy Song,” from Carmen, in the original French and an English translation by Jacob Lubliner.