L.A. Opera´s Carmen

REVIEW By Willard Manus

The singing and acting do not quite match the decor and musicality in Los Angeles Opera's production of Bizet's CARMEN. Catherine Malfitano, who shares the lead role with Milena Kitic, had some shaky vocal moments, especially in the high registers, and is maybe a little too old to be convincing in the part of a femme fatale, but her powerful stage presence and acting skills helped compensate for these shortcomings.

Mario Malagnini, as Carmen's deeply conflicted lover Don Jose, sang solidly if unexcitingly, as did Franco Pomponi as Escamillo.

Newcomer Angela Marambio, though, made a big impact as the country girl Micaela; as did Jamie Offenbach as Zuniga and Johee Choi and Diana Tash as Frasquita and Mercedes, respectively.

Gerardo Trotti's sumptuous, atmospheric sets (originally done for Teatro Real, Madrid), Emilio Sagi's direction and the conducting of Nicola Luisotti were of a high order (the latter was even given a standing ovation). Bizet's beloved melodies and tunes never sounded better.

CARMEN is the third most-performed opera in the world, after Aida and la Boheme, both of which will be mounted by L.A. Opera this season. La Boheme comes first (Nov. 20-Dec. 19), with Marco Berti & Roberto Alagna sharing Rodolfo, Ana Maria Martinez & Angela Gheorghiou, Mimi. Alagna and Gheorgiou are married to each other, which should give an extra dimension to their portrayal of Puccini's doomed lovers.

Aida is scheduled for Jan. 22-Feb. 19, 2005. All nine performances will be sung by the dazzling soprano Michele Crider, backed up by such singers as Irina Mishura, Franco Farina, Lado Atoneli, Arutjun Kotchinian and Reinhard Hagen. Verdi's masterpiece will be directed by Vera Calabria.

Other upcoming productions include the company premiere of Samuel Barber's Vanessa, Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, Verdi's Falstaff (with Bryn Terfel in the lead role), Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, and concerts by Terfel, Renee Fleming and Susan Graham.

For tickets & information call (213) 972-8001 or visit www.LosAngelesOpera.com