Diva Audrey Babcock (right) plays the title role of the tempestuous Gypsy in the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s ongoing production of ‘Carmen.’
LOGAN – Carmen is arguably one of the best operas ever written and the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s ongoing production brings it brilliantly to life right here in the Ellen Eccles Theatre.
Carmen has everything you want from grand opera – an awesome score, gorgeous vocal performances, high drama, passionate characters and a predictably tragic ending to its twisted love story.
The opera is skillfully directed by Valerie Rachelle, with Keren Keltner returning as conductor.
When Carmen debuted in 1875, this sordid tale of seduction and obsession ending in murder scandalized French audiences. Despite numerous changes to satisfy audience tastes over the years, this UFOMT production is true to Georges Bizet’s original vision of the opera.
Don’t go looking for some woke, revisionist version of this opera’s title character. Mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock gives us a Carmen that is traditional in all respects. She’s hedonistic, impetuous and hot-tempered – the quintessential Spanish woman, as imagined by Bizet, a Frenchman.
Ms. Babcock’s performance is superb. She seems to be born to play Carmen (in fact, as MFOMT founding director Michael Ballam suggests – half jokingly, perhaps – Ms. Babcock may have played that role more often than anyone else alive).
Ms. Babcock’s voice ranges from flirtatious to sultry and seductive, but is always rich and velvety. Her interpretation of the “Habanera” is a declaration of independence to which her would-be suitors should have listened more closely.
Ms. Babcock is the perfect Carmen, destined to tempt men to their destruction and ultimately her own.
Isaac Hurtado appears as the ill-fated Don José, seemingly a casual fling for Carmen, but an obsessively possessive lover at the opera’s climax.
Kara Goodrich was an impressive counterpoint to Carmen, a good woman whose love was not enough for Don José. Her interpretation of “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” in Act 3 at the smugglers’ hideout was exquisite.
As Carmen’s sidekicks Fransquita and Mercédès, Sara Lucille Law and Victoria Isernia lead a chorus of female factory workers and cigarette girls who are as tempestuous as the main characters.
Rounding out the opera’s headliners is Joseph Lattanzi, who is memorable as the bullfighter Escamillo. His “Toreador Song” is just what it needs to be, a triumphant anthem performed with gusto.
The opera’s ending is also traditional — and ugly. Motivated by jealously and fear of abandonment, Don José stabs Carmen and she dies with the cheers from the bullring for her new lover Escamillo ringing in her ears.
There’s no way to sugarcoat that climax, but Ms. Babcock wouldn’t have it any other way.
Evening performances of Carmen will be staged July 14 and Aug. 5, with matinees July 22 and 30.