Review by Willard Manus
Mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon brought fire and substance to the role of the Gypsy dancer Carmen, showing at all times that she was a lot more than just a vamp. She also sang with an uncommon grace and intelligence. Brandon Jovanovich as her would-be sugar-daddy Don Jose made the most of his importuning arias, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo excelled as the macho and possessive bullfighter.
Among the other noteworthy singers were Pretty Yende as Micaela, Hae Ji Chang as Fraquita, and Cassandra Zoe Velasco as Mercedes. The latter two are members of LA Opera's Young Artist Program; Yende, a South African soprano, took first prize at Operalia 2011. No doubt we will be hearing lots more about them in future.
Conducting for the LA Opera orchestra was Placido Domingo, returning to the podium for the first time since his recent heart attack. He attacked Bizet's tuneful score with characteristic enthusiasm and robustness.
This production of CARMEN may not have broken new ground but it did have much to admire and enjoy about it.
In November LA Opera will mount productions of FALSTAFF and THE MAGIC FLUTE. The former will be performed at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa; the latter at the Music Center, with James Conlon directing. For tickets and information, call 213-972-8001 or visit laopera.com