In her Atlanta Opera debut, María José Montiel is everything a “Carmen” should be. Flirtatious. Coquettish. Sexy. Fierce. The brilliant mezzo-soprano from Spain beguiles and seduces in the company’s season-opening production the audience at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
It has been six years since Atlanta Opera last staged “Carmen,” the popular tragedy of the gypsy in Seville who woos men according to her whimsy by Georges Bizet.
Given such a well-known piece filled with some of the most reconizable music in the genre, director Jeffery Marc Buchman uses clever flashback scenes to recount the story through an imprisoned Don Jose, Carmen’s soldier lover and murderer portrayed by tenor Fernando de la Mora.
While this modernizing offers a change of perspective, the production remains production gives a backdrop for Montiel, whose interpretation of the character includes a “Habanera” filled with luscious vocal trills and turns, which she accompanied with floreo, those captivating flamenco hand movements.
There are several impressive cast members, including the alluring de la Mora, Melissa Shippen, who sang the role of the shy village girl Micaela with tenderness, and Aleksey Bogdanov, who plays the bullfighter Escamillo who also falls for Carmen. Bogdanov’s rendering of the “Toreador Song” was so proud and engaging that it nearly resulted in a sing-along, with some in the audience slipping out of silence for a least a few bars, losing themselves with the bass-baritone. His duet with Montiel “Si tu m’aimes” demonstrated their chemistry as they sang with passion and intimacy.
The cast also features the Atlanta Opera Chorus and a legion of super-cute street kids played by the company’s children’s chorus.
Some highlights of the staging include the use of slow-motion tableaus – such as the crowd waving cheering during the bullfight – which helped further convey the idea of being trapped inside Don Jose’s memory. The team of flamenco dancers choreographed by Rosa Mercedes bring and authenticity to the sets, along with the dazzling period costuming of the matadors that lit up the theater.
“Carmen.” 7:30 Nov. 13; 8 p.m Nov. 16; 3 p.m. Nov. 18. $26.70-$132.36. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 404-881-8885, www.atlantaopera.org.