THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera's "Carmen" heats up the Ordway

By Basil Considine, TC Daily Planet

May 04, 2015

The opera Carmen needs little introduction, but much can be said about how Minnesota Opera’s current production does things well. This classic femme fatale story is presented in Spain in the 1970s, when the Sexual Revolution first began to erode the edges of a conservative Catholicism previously enforced – sometimes brutally – by the repressive fascist regime of Generalissimo Franco. (The modern stereotype of sleazy Spanish men comes from just after this period.) This decision by director Michael Cavanagh heightens many tensions within the source material, and is a splendid excuse for a retrofabulous costume excursion. The music may be the same as normal, but the updated setting makes the characters much more relatable and heightens the already elevated emotional stakes.

 The orchestra at the reviewed performance was tightly led by Aaron Breid, who injected an extra bounce into several scenes to propel the dancing along. Jessica Jahn’s period costumes are eye-catching and attractive, while the stark Modernist surfaces of Erhard Rom’s setting offset well the onstage heat. The final stabbing scene, set against a backdrop of crowds at the back of a stadium with flower petals raining down, is an especially arresting image to end the evening