Fantasy Opera

I probably should have watched the Cowboys-Vikings game, but the Fox channel had annoying wavy lines through it. I couldn't identify Tony Romo in a police line-up, but Brett Favre always looks good in those Wranglers. How would Brett look in pink stockings and a toreador costume?

Instead of reality football, I was playing fantasy opera. It's a good imaginary desert island diversion, and the price is right. Yesterday friends treated me to viewing the Metropolitan Opera live broadcast of "Carmen" in High Definition at a movie theater. Today I'm assembling my own production.

In the role of the gypsy, Carmen, I can choose from Elina Garanca (Met in HD), Julia Migenes-Johnson (1984 DVD filmed in Andalusia), Jessye Norman singing sweetly on my Decca CD, or the entirely unconvincing Ekaterina Semenchuk in her 2004 Dallas Opera debut. Elina and Julia will have to fight it out in the cigarette factory. Julia is earthier--more real. Elina is just the tiniest iota too perfect, and I rarely forgot she was acting.

Roberto Alagna clearly leads the pack for the role of the naive, and then obsessed Don Jose. His chemistry with Elina Garanca in the Met broadcast was spellbinding. Runner-up is Neil Shicoff on the Decca CD. Placido Domingo has never convinced me that he wouldn't rather run home to his mama on the DVD. Mark Thomsen made no memorable impact in the Dallas Opera.

Houston native Latonia Moore gave credibility to Micaela in the Dallas production and won the hearts of the audience. Faith Esham looks and sounds wonderful on the DVD, Mirella Freni sounds excellent on the CD. Barbara Frittoli at the Met looked old enough to be Don Jose's mother.

Teddy Tatu Rhodes subbed the bullfighter role, Escamilla, in Saturday's Met broadcast, learning he would sing just a few hours before the performance. He sang the role in 2004 in Dallas, a year after he gave my heart a flutter in La Boheme. I seem unable to choose Simon Estes from the Decca CD sight unseen. I lean toward Ruggero Raimondi's arrogant rock star portrayal in the DVD over Teddy's more human if still egotistical interpretation.

I don't know if Brett Favre can sing, but Keith Miller can. I had no idea Keith Miller played football for the Colorado U Buffaloes before becoming a knockout as Zuniga on the Met stage. He has no competition. This is a fantasy opera, after all.

DVD wins with atmosphere, filmed with real dust and rocks. The Metropolitan Opera set rotates and transforms from act to act creating a unified form that is dramatic and effective in each arrangement. One of the greatest joys of the HD broadcast was watching the set changes from fantastic camera angles.

My first exciting onstage tour of a Dallas Opera set was 2004's "Carmen". I will create the costumes for Frasquita and Mercedes, Carmen's gypsy friends, in my fantasy production.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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