Carmen - Salzburg Festival, 25 August 2012
Who is Carmen? A seething volcano of unfettered passions? An independent woman with the courage to forge her own destiny? A projection of male nympho fantasies? Or a whey-faced Berlin housewife with the voice of an angel and two left feet?
She had zero chemistry with Jonas Kaufmann’s heroically sung Don Jose either, though perhaps both could be forgiven when her other half was standing ten feet away wielding a pointy stick. The vibrant, springy sound Simon Rattle coaxed from the Vienna Philharmonic had more than a hint of period practice about it, though thankfully none of the near-parodic ‘Hispanic’ flair that tempts so many conductors.
Kostas Smoriginas acquitted himself well in the thankless role of Escamillo, though most of the audience’s love was directed towards local girl Genia Kuhmeier as the sweet and tragic Micaela.
The colourful and literal production is set for no apparent reason at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Though inept in places – picking out characters with tracking spots instead of intelligent blocking for example – it avoids both offence and the usual thigh-rubbing clichés.