'Carmen' returns to Met Opera in mixed revival
In this Sept. 22, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Kyle Ketelsen, right, performs in the role of Escamillo with Anita Rachvelishvili as the title character in Bizet's "Carmen," during a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
NEW YORK (AP) — The Metropolitan Opera's revival of its 2½-year-old production of Bizet's "Carmen" was memorable for the debut of conductor Michele Mariotti and for performances by Anita Rachvelishvili and Yonghoon Lee that never quite came together.
Mariotti, principal conductor at Bologna's Teatro Comunale in Italy, put his imprint on the opening night of the run Friday with a briskly conducted overture that bordered on a dash. The 33-year-old shaped a propulsive evening, bringing out the colors of Bizet's score and the vibrancy of Richard Eyre's staging, which opened at the Met on New Year's Eve 2009. Mariotti gets his first high-profile Met assignment in January, the new Michael Mayer staging of Verdi's "Rigoletto" set in 1960 Las Vegas.
In this Sept. 22, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Kyle Ketelsen performs in the role of Escamillo in Bizet's "Carmen," during a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
Rachvelishvili, a mezzo-soprano who made her Met debut in last year's "Carmen" revival, slinked her way around the set with the sexy moves of the title character in a manner that was labored. She had vocal power to spare in her dusky voice, which has an especially strong top, and her "Habanera" was seductive. Still, she fell short of a smoldering Carmen that is the center of all men's attention.
In this Sept. 22, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Yonghoon Lee performs in the role of Don Jose opposite Kate Royal as Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen," during a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
The boyish-looking, handsome Lee has a vibrant tenor with ping in his upper register and warm piano notes, and he earned big applause for a well-sung Flower Song. But his acting was somewhat stiff and his singing was with marred by poor French diction, with harsh vowels that jarred to the point of distraction. During the final scene, he was filled more with anger than anguish.