"Carmen" shocked audiences when first performed. Today we tend to be served up with the colourful gypsy, the jolly smugglers and the idealistic view of a romantic old Spanish town. This performance reminds us why audiences were shocked. This Carmen is a real slut, and her power over men is destructive. There is nothing jolly about the smugglers, reminding me of an updated production I saw some years ago in which they were translated into very unpleasant drug dealers. Maybe D'Arcangelo isn't the most charismatic Escamillo, but Michaela is sung with a strong beauty that doesn't make her a wet character. However, it is the two leads that steal it, as they have to. Antonacci has a real grip on her portrayal of Carmen. It's not so much sexy as semi-pornographic. This Carmen uses the word 'love' but has no idea what it is. What she has is power. You can well believe she will die rather than give into Don José.
What really impresses in this opera is Kaufmann's portrayal. To often, José is a drip. Kaufmann's José is a rounded character and you can see why Carmen goes after him, why she has to work hard on him and why, when he falls in love with her and is then rejected, the only end is tragedy - but not the tragedy of a weak man.
This isn't a pretty production but it is very true to the original concept. Four stars because i agree with those who say sound balance is slightly flawed. I can't wait for the ROH to release the Kaufmann/Gheorgiu/Terfel Tosca which was fabulous on the big screen.
You can take it for granted that the singing is of a very high quality.