Bravo: “La Tragédie de Carmen”

Presented by the Boston University Fringe Festival
Adapted from Georges Bizet’s opera by Marius Constant, Jean-Claude Carrière, and Peter Brook
Stage Directed by Jim Petosa
Conductor: William Lumpkin

October 8 – 26, 2014
BU Theatre, Lane-Comley Studio 210
264 Huntington Avenue
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Review by Danielle Rosvally

(Boston, MA) Opera might be opera, but you’ve never seen opera like this before. The Fringe festival’s production of La Tragédie de Carmen is a fresh, energetic take on Brook’s gritty adaptation of Bizet’s piece with exciting voices full of promise.

One of the exhilarating things about seeing students perform opera is that they are singing machines. Conservatory, as a general rule, makes from semi-trained talent lean, mean, professional instruments with clarity and utterly perfect precision. As such, performances by these students are chock full of those qualities, as well as an exuberance and boundless energy that is simply thrilling to watch. These students are hungry to perform, and this brings the stakes of their performances through the roof.

In Petosa’s Carmen, the fiery gypsy takes the form of a gothy “witch” toting tarot cards, a barely-there leather skirt, dark red lipstick, torn fishnet stockings, and knee-high boots that scream “come at me, big boy”. I’m pretty sure I never though I would see anyone sing the Habanera while giving a no-holds-bared lap dance… but life’s funny that way, I suppose.

The orchestra played beautifully under the conduction of William Lumpkin. I could have sat back with my eyes closed and listened to them perform all night and day as they deftly navigated the waters of Bizet’s famous (and not-so-famous) music.

The space was sparse, but Petosa made use of every single thing he had. The set was comprised of a low-hanging crystal chandelier, and three black chairs. This was all the cast of six required to take us on a journey to exotic locations, traveling across rural and not-so-rural Spain along the way. A chair and a Gobo created the jail cell which Don Jose locks Carmen in (and then is connived into himself). A circle of cards on the floor created Carmen’s room where Don Jose and Carmen spend the night before they are interrupted by Garcia. Lilas Pastia’s bar is a conglomeration of chairs and wine bottles, brought alive by the actors as they tore their way through the opera.

Really what this went to show is that simple theatre can be misleading. Minimalist theatre doesn’t mean empty; the vitality and passion brought to Carmen last night was one that filled every inch of that space and entrances and invigorated every member of that audience.

Bravo, cast of Carmen. And congratulations to all who made the 18th season of the BU Fringe Festival such a glowing success!

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