The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, November 30, 2017, Page 8, Image 8

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Small audience, big success for ‘Carmen’ at Liberty
actress exemplifies
n fifth grade, I fell in love.
It was no ordinary love.
It was with the image of
a woman I could never hope
to mate.
I fell for Carmen.
Like Don José, the
doomed soldier in Bizet’s
opera, I came under the spell
of that fickle vixen, that
firebrand, that wondrous,
free spirit. Oh, how I loved
her, the image of her, that
gorgeous French sound of
her arias. Carmen is the most
passionate fictional female
character in Western perfor-
mance art. She is spellbind-
ing. And so it was with me.
Her spell, which has en-
tranced me since a 1967 field
trip to London, finally broke
at Astoria’s Liberty Theatre
Friday night. For, unlike
of the Atlantic for 50 years
the love-blind corporal, I
found the image of maidenly and can attest that she was
the most believable Micae-
innocence infinitely more
la I have ever seen. And I
Tacoma Opera brought
have heard plenty; on vinyl,
a shortened
only Joan
version of the
Sutherland in
classic Span-
the well-re-
ish tragedy
‘THE STAR OF garded 1963
to the Liberty
comes close
stage with a
raw intensity.
her leading
And the star
lady, Regina
of the show
wasn’t Car-
men (though
portrayed a
Zuluaga was
paragon of
good), but the
ness, both at
her entrance when she of-
character of Micaela.
fered her chaste kiss to Don
Jordan Corbin delivered
such sweetness and power to José, and later, frightened, on
the role. I have savored this
her knees praying ardently
masterpiece on both sides
for divine protection, in her
strongest aria.
My only disappointment
was that there were only 125
paying guests to witness it.
Had Timothy Janecke as
Don José paused, really lis-
tened, and realized that true,
deep, lasting affection was
staring him in the face, he
would have carried Micaela
back home to his ailing mom
and we could have avoided
any bloodshed. (Carmen
is stabbed to death onstage
by her spurned lover in the
closing scene, one of many
controversies that made Bi-
zet’s 1875 work scandalous
and rule-breaking.)
With the troupe’s general
director, Noel Koran, serving
as a fluent narrator, the com-
pany offered Spanish songs
by blind Spanish composer
Joaquin Rodrigo in a first act,
Jordan Corbin
during which Zuluaga and
Corbin warmed their voices.
Rodrigo is best known for
his Aranjuez guitar concerto,
and the language barrier may
have made the vocal selec-
tions less accessible to some.
The Bizet work featured a
somewhat languid-paced but
precise piano accompaniment
from Denes Van Parys, link-
ing scenes. Having played
the “Overture” and “Tore-
ador Song” with my English
school orchestra, it was a
minor disappointment to hear
no crashing cymbals.
But the manner in which
Van Parys segued from
scene to scene, incorporating
those easy-to-hum tunes
with dark foreshadowing,
demonstrated considerable
skill. Just four actors plus
Koran united in a simply
choreographed format that
cut hours from the libretto
without losing the essence;
only the magic of the three
gypsy girls’ fortune-telling
(my favorite scene) was
The one acting disappoint-
ment was Misha Myznikov
as the toreador, though he
conducted the stylized fight
scene with aplomb. His voice
offered deep sonority, but
there was little presence in
his Escamillo that would turn
a women’s head.
Zuluaga was the most
physical Carmen I have ever
seen, practically ravishing
Don José before our eyes
before casting him off. She
demonstrated the confidence,
charm and effervescence that
all Carmens need, occa-
sionally losing clarity in her
diction in the clinch, but was
poised and commanding
Afterward, the group
graciously met audience
members who lingered for
snapshots. A radiant Corbin
deflected most praise toward
her director. In turn, Koran
clearly delighted in having
such a mature performer in
his cast. “She is just mar-
velous — expressive and
effusive,” he said.
The good news is that the
group is staging a full-cast
production of “Carmen”
early next year.
Shows at the Pantag-
es Theater in Tacoma are
planned Feb. 3, 9 and 11.
Corbin and Zuluaga will
portray gypsy girls Frasquita
and Mercedes. Caitlin McKe-
chney will fly in from afar to
play the title character, which
she has sung in Memphis
and New York, and Kimberly
Giodano, a Seattle-area regu-
lar, will portray Micaela. For
details, log on to tacomaop-
Meanwhile, the Liberty
Theatre continues its Classical
Series with small-group con-
certs Jan. 4, Feb. 4, Feb. 17,
March 16, April 26 and May
25. For details and tickets,
visit CW