Teatro Regio di Parma: Carmen



by Bianca L. Nica
February 14, 2022



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Carmen of Silvia Paoli is a fantasy of a pretty disturbed mind of Don Josè, who closed in a grey walls cell with his memories, a photo of Micaela and the flower received from Carmen, kept in plastic bag, under the mattress of his bed. This is not exactly the atmosphere we expect to get when we think about Carmen, isn‘t it? The whole action takes place there, in the brain mental patient, accused, of course, of murder, who has these flashbacks of a story he lived in his own. Carmen bewitched him with her flower, becoming an obsession for him, that appears in his fantasy as multiple ghosty threading beings (played by four dancers), sometimes wearing the wedding dress, while others, a little black dress. Silvia Paoli declares that this production is a condemnation of violence against women, but, at the same time, promotes this deviant ideas and perceptions of the murderer to the point of projecting the phrase La femme est un poison elle n’offer che deux bon moments au lit ed dans la tombe, that Don Josè writes with his fingers on the dusty wall of his cell during the quartet in the 2nd act, and highlights in repetitive way as the sexual objectification of the female body: every woman on stage is touched by men: Micaela is harassed while looking for Don Josè and the cigar-makers open their gowns, raise their arms and get raided by the guards. The women don’t actually react negatively to this behaviour and Carmen rather enjoys the situation (as a perception of Don Josè, of course). 

In this context, Carmen, who’s dead, but keeps appearing in the man’s sick mind, becomes quite a negative character, aspect that provoked quite strong reactions from the public right after the duet between Micaela and Don Josè, where the action proceeds as if Don Josè hadn’t a free will and Carmen was guilty of each and every of his choices in life – particularly the one of cheating on Micaela. 

The opening of the 4th act is transformed into a procession for the funeral of José’s mother (while the music suggests something totally different through the glittering A dos quartos), while the protagonist is dressed as a bride in the finale. The funeral and the wedding rites, together with the red roses of love that replicate “la fleur” as tributes on a symbolic tomb create a powerful effect. Comunque, la Carmen non è così! could not have missed at this point at Teatro Regio di Parma, whose public is so passionate – can’t help it, but love them!

This production of Carmen is spoiling us with two protagonists that fortunately have both the looks and the voice to seduce – Martina Belli & Ramona Zaharia, even though this new hypostasis of the character put them a bit in trouble.

Martina Belli, actually, seemed a bit tense in her movements at the beginning of the performance – the spirit and sensuality that the roles requires could have been better shown -, but her burnished, seductive timber and well-behaved singing, with bold pianissimi, made up for it, despite the slow and heavy tempo of Habanera. 

For Ramona Zaharia this production represented her debut in Italy, a very much deserved one! Ramona keeps easily all the eyes on the audience on her, sings well, showing a beautiful timbre, rich in harmonics, flexible and effortless voice, seeking nuances and adapts to Paoli’s requests, fitting perfectly in the sick story in Don Josè’s mind.  

Arturo Chacon Cruz & Azer Zada performed the challenging role of Don Josè, being on stage from the first to the last minute of the performance, so when they’re not singing, they must act the characters reactions and interactions with the various episodes evoked by his memory.

Arturo Chacon Cruz must first of all be credited with great stage presence, acting skills and charisma. His pleasantly dark voice, very flexibly hitting the high notes, is more adapted to the lyrical parts of the opera, such as the long, bright phrases of the first duet with Micaela, but very well sung was also the aria “La fleur que yu m’avais jetée”.

Azer Zada has the right voice and the sensitivity required for this characterisation of his character, which he fully respected (and understood, I think). His “Fleur” was truly delicate and moving, dreamy as the memory of the obsessive love story that repeatedly comes back to him while he is in the cell. Azer got the long round of applauses he deserves. His fresh timbre and musical sensitivity will bring this young tenor to the biggest stages of the world.

Both Marco Caria & Alessandra Luongo were not really convincing in the role of Escamillo, despite his beautiful and incisive vocal timbre, because of the lacking the flair, confidence and required by the Toreador, but Luongo distinguished himself vocally, getting the audience’s appreciation, 

Micaela maintains her affection for José by visiting him in prison under the watchful eye of oppressive guards, but her character presents a much stronger figure than the naive girl the tradition has accustomed us to. She hopes to bring her beloved one back on the right path. Laura Giordano proves herself excellent – feminine, yet strong, soft, yet sincere – in building an important character, due to her lyric soprano voice that allows her to make use of many shades and colours, especially for her 3rd act aria “Je dis que rien m’épouvante”. Veronica Marini proved herself a sensitive, intelligent performer as Micaela in the second cast, with good vocal means that she should exploit more and more.

The cast is successfully completed by Armando Gabba (Dancaïre), Saverio Fiore (Remendado), Gianni Giuga (Morales) and Massimiliano Catellani (Zuniga). Eleonora Bellocco (12.01) and Anna Maria Serra (15.01) were Frasquita, while Chiara Tirotta was Mercedes, all of them performing well in the quintet. 

Jordi Bernacer’s choice goes towards the Giraud version of the sung recitatives, which conferees more fluidity to the whole action. And we agree – it is a choice that such a long opera, staged only in shades of grey required. Also, in terms of nuances and dynamics, Bernacer tried to keep the coherence between what was going on the stage and the musical aspect.

The bare scenes are designed by Andrea Belli, the costumes, all  of them inspired by the style of the ‘60s (a moment that could be linked with the beginning of a change in the perception towards the role of the woman in the society) except for Escamillo, the only one to keep the traditional bullfighter’s outfit, are designed by Valeria Donata Bettella. Reality and hallucination/memory moments are well contoured thanks to the lighting ideated by Marcello Lumaca, the video by Francesco Corsi and choreography by Carlos Massari/C&C Company.

In conclusion, Silvia Paoli wanted to tell the story of a woman seen through the eyes and the memory of a sick man, who becomes the protagonist, despite the opera’s title. Certainly, the idea has its own coherence and the realisation manages not to deviate too much from the libretto. On the other hand, using a mixture of dream and reality and the weapon of imagination is a rather simple way to avoid this problem, because, of course, of something is incoherent, it can easily be put in the cauldron of the “dream”. So, most of the scenes proved particularly effective, such as the finale of Act III in which Don José realises that after having chosen to leave with Micaela, he is actually locked up in a cell.

At the end of the premiere, the warmest applause goes to Laura Giordano, but the whole cast is well and righteously appreciated by the expect public in Parma. The entrance on stage of the directing team from the proscenium provokes reactions, between some boos interfered with bravos, because, of course, la Carmen non è così. On one hand, Carmen is not like this, indeed. On the other hand, 21st century opera stagings shouldn’t be about how Carmen is, but about making questions, thinking on the social aim of the art and artists, about innovation, about different opinions and confrontations… fully respecting it heritage, the composer’s will and his music. All in all, setting such a long opera entirely in a prison room, completely eliminating all element that might refer to the atmospheres of Spain, considering the music’s evocative character resulted monotonic and static – a rigid approach that also affected the singers’ performances in various ways, and altered the magic and vigour of Bizet’s masterpiece.

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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