The Aix “Carmen” (2017) Liveblogging Thread

liveblog_header_n1.jpg

Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Bizet’s “Carmen” from Aix-en-Provence (2017), conducted by Pablo Casals-Herado and staged by Dmitri Tcherniakov.

Cast List:

Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Carmen)
Michael Fabiano (Don José)
Elsa Dreisig (Micaëla)
Michael Todd Simpson (Escamillo)
Gabrielle Philiponet (Frasquita)
Virginie Verrez (Mercédès)
Christian Helmer (Zuniga)
Pierre Doyen (Moralès)
Guillaume Andrieux (Le Dancaïre)
Mathias Vidal (Le Remendado)

Libretto: French/German (html) Italian (pdf), French/English (html) – since the therapy set-up has the dialoges rewritten by Tcherniakov, this may only be helpful for the musical numbers.

446 thoughts on “The Aix “Carmen” (2017) Liveblogging Thread”

    1. they just arrived for a revolutionary couples’ therapy – he is bored with his wife, she booked him into a therapy LARP, on the subject of Carmen.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. desperate times, desperate measures?

          It is far-fetched, but if you look at it as “How the hell do I make sense of Carmen and the entire macho tradition?”, it is not a bad angle.

          Like

    2. as a concept, not bad – it addresses the fact that Carmen seems more cookie cutter projection space than a character in the staging convention. This way, you get immediate distance – it is an actress in poses, you don’t have to make sense of her as a person.

      Like

        1. then we will have to watch either Kasarova or Antonacci 😉 (I think the only “Character” here is José, or perhaps some of the roles might switch into characters? – this might be a weak point, actually)

          Liked by 1 person

        1. if it is good, the actress will get to stop away from words/actions and can expose the sexist tradition of the figure. if it goes south… lavender?

          Like

        2. one of the core questions of Carmen – can you stage someone as a ‘real woman’ who was built to be an othered sexbot? Or is it more honest to say: sorry, I can do this poses, but this insults me as a human being, this is not real. ?

          Like

          1. Yes. and there’s also the “it’s all about Jose anyway” which is what they singers/directors were talking about on the radio this week promo-ing a local production.

            Like

          2. yes – am wondering right now if José will be the only one with an actual NAME tag? (okay, Morales had one, too)

            If it is “all about José anyway”, at least what I get so far is that that is a problem and recognized as such.

            Like

      1. last dialogue bits just were the stage directions – military march sounding from the distance, etc.

        okay, this is a fun commentary on the usual cheesy change of the guard and the cutesy choir of street children.

        Like

    1. I think they mock the military ‘glorly’ of the change of the guard (that wole thing with ritualized hegemonic masculinity and hierarchies…) and also double as the children’s choir?

      Like

        1. seems he is perhaps not comfortable with getting that pattern uncloaked? (Fabbiano does a good job of the insecure-and-hence-bullyish-white-guy so far)

          Like

  1. Oh, the choir is lovely so far – no “Letting it all hang out”. very disciplined, floating lines. NIIIIIICE.

    Like

      1. oh, and female choir singers in vests and white shirts and trousers – this is already going the way of the Corporate Carmen that has always been my concept for a staging.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. hello SESTO. Well, right now I cannot see Sesto here, but it works out very well for Carmen, and in this overdone number to boot! (perhaps we need to add her Beatrice et Benedct to the liveblog list because… reasons)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this is what I meant – having an actress slip into Carmen as a pose and we get to witness the construction. (as a sole result for the evening, it is too static, but I like the start. Perhaps it switches to serious at some point, or perhaps it moves back and forth?)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it is all on purpose? (I hope!) – also this but of the flower being stuck, and the iconic moment turning into a parody – and there almost being a moment of connection in the awkwardness? – and then back to the workshop situation, with everyone covering their awkwardness in laughter, pretending to not take any of the poses they have to do seriously and ignoring their energy.

        Like

          1. I’ve done them with church people, social work people, performing folks… but the psychologists would probably take the cake?

            Like

    1. my first live Carmen had Mercédès in boots and black lace underwear, so i was not really aware of any other female characters in the opera for a long time.

      Also, Micaela: it seems it is the wife who just wrote herself into the play unplanned (Dialogie bit of “I have to write myself into this, give me the role, ha, I’ll be the fiancée of José, – and he rolls his eyes)

      (and Micaela does get some very nice lines here.)

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I think he did, and that is why he was annoyed?

          (they get to weave in and out of the roles nicely, and so far, I don’t get a sense of larmoyance/shirking responsibility in the storytelling)

          Like

    1. it is not? Damn, I thought it was.

      (actually, I would like a Carmen with that look, and then transfer all the “Hot blooded passion” tropes to a level of power and cool)

      Like

    1. i mean he’s fine but we’re not really here for the tenors anyway, are we? 😉 also i have a hard time getting over his jerk-ery to appreciate his voice. 🙂

      Like

    1. the singing is supposed to be spontaneous on his part, reacting to scripted bits? but since she just pushed her way in, hers aren’t scripted, either.

      Like

          1. and there are two versions, one with spoken dialogues, one later one with sung ones… am no expert on the score, regretfully.

            Like

          2. oh, it could have been spoken then. i’m just following on the french/english one. either way recits are being cut and not replaced with anything that i can tell. i think to tighten the narrative even more?

            Like

    1. or to realize his problems with women on a larger scale? See if he can deal with independency which might be lacking with Micaela?

      Like

    1. agreed.
      But what I get so far is that the audience/direction is on of it? He enjoys it, but it fails, and he has to do it four times, and she ridicules him – so if I think back to Così last summer, I come away with less unease, because the icky moment shown gets immediately shot down.

      Like

    1. I haven’t see it yet, so I can only guess (and guess that police violence isn’t a trigger for the director?)

      I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was in here, I know this is nothing you take well. We can alert you when the scene is over?

      (The scenic ploy is likely to have people guess whether this is part of the roleplay or not, and set up a situation where José/Carmen react more off-script)

      Like

        1. something like that.
          Responding to Carmen (who is in on the joke) protesting and defying police brutality, whereas Micaela hides behind him? (of course, Micaela believes it is real)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, the background of the swat police is effective to make the role play more real (even for the audience) so it makes sense the story starts to unfold. And that seguidilla is very nicely sung

    Like

      1. and how he cannot even fold proper paper planes!

        (well, faced with the singing, I wouldn’t be able to focus on paper planes, either)

        And I continue to be impressed with the pit. Drive, but disciplined, no big othering folklore attacks.

        Like

    1. and can’t take being teased.
      stomps off and sulks and the therapist has to come in and remind him to play along since he signed the papers.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Perhaps the only way to bear with Escamillo’s posing is to turn it into a mere pose and put it on some suitwearing Blandy McChiselface with a 5 o’ clock shadow and sunglasses to depersonalize him even more?

    Like

  5. okay – she tells him “You’ve got to keep playing along, these people are dangerous, you have to play on. I will explain it to you later, please just play along, I am on your side.”

    Like

      1. far too many guys out there who laugh at ‘jokes’ like this and then don’t speak up against the real thing, or stamp themselves ‘nice guys’
        (well, enough women, too – especially if we move from gendered to ethnic violence)

        Like

    1. that got me for a moment. Prefiguring the violence? I mean the snap of the theatre knives was audible, but still… too gratuitous? Or still someone commenting on a trope?

      Like

    1. yes, this must be easier to get into as a 21st century woman with a feminist stance. But is this enough to get someone invested in a story? if she just mocks her icon status all the time? I get that it is important to point out, and I am grateful for it, but I wonder if this will carry for 3 hours. (though calling out sexism will carry for the next 30 years, so…)

      Like

      1. Well, I’m starting to get interested in the character of this role play actress, but sadly we probably won’t find out a lot about her, since this is all focused on Jose. And the constant turns in the role play make it hard to make sense of and get invested.

        Like

        1. yes, that is the weak point of the evening, I think. unless there is still a monumental turn. Of course you can analyze something well and present your findings, but will it make for compelling theater?

          Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, am questioning now whether this has always been a stalker piece and I have simply never seen it that way before?

      Like

        1. I still have mixed feelings about this – I guess it depends on José’s attitude? If he expects to be loved back for his emotional investment? Or whether he is really just telling her that she has made an impression on him?

          Liked by 1 person

  6. comment of therapist when José decks Zuniga: “Congrats, that is exactly what we expected you to do, test passed, onto the next one.”

    (so is the therapy goal simply to get José emotionally invested in anything, no matter what?)

    Like

      1. the intermission feature is more “he is normal guy who lost his life drive, and needs to reawake his passions” – which would make the whole set-up icky. (though it may just be that Fabbiano/Dreisig does not really get the finer point on patriarchy here?)

        Like

          1. I hope so. Inhaled too much hairspray!

            What i get is not “José, the poor guy who lost his will to live in his boring marriage, we have to save him.”

            WHat I see is “This is your problem, society: The White Guy. and it is a huge problem, and we are aware of it, look at how stunted and abusive he is, and in this form and attitude, he is beyond saving and lethal for others.”

            I just hope that this was intentional and I am not just benignly seeing things others are blind to.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Yes, I agree. And it is a real problem how many (educted) people (mostly man) think it is a good thing to act out feelings in a violent manner.

            Like

          3. very true.
            And how society grooms us into accepting that, and accepting abusive behaviors or even romanticize them.

            Like

    1. as it progresses (as I’m thinking about it), he’s applauded over and over for choosing violence as a valid mode of emotional expression. Including the champagne toast at the end.

      Like

    1. I like her very much. Great voice, great stage presence. Which somehow belies the “carmen is just a projection” idea, for me anyway, because she’s likeable and a person..I think? (or maybe it’s because i’m a feminist woman who sees her anyway? hmmm)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. haha, my memory of this is watching my mom play the flute line from behind her to the left where the horns were sitting in the little community symphony we played in when i was a kid. (a Carmen suite)

      Like

  7. therapist says, the therapy is over, you are cured, you can go home. And José says, “No, I want to go on, you don’t know anything about me, please, let’s go on, what is the next scene?”

    Like

  8. The therapy being officially over at this point fits with José beginning to berate Carmen for not being interested in him any longer.

    But oh, look who is there to pick up her husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. well, the therapist is also a white guy.
      but if the therapy goal was to have him react with any kind of emotion, well you got that. Nevermind the ethics?

      Like

  9. sure, I’ll play cards with the Esprit pantsuit.

    (JOsé, you couldn’t deal with the three of them an act ago, what makes you think you are doing any better now?)

    Like

      1. oh, that black lace back then… with high riding boots and slicked back shorter hair. And then a suit jacket on top. Well. I have seen worse get-up. (I saw the show 5 times. For musical reasons?)

        Like

      1. there must be a self-help group somewhere. During holidays I spotted some more mothers (always mothers) who had to play Uno at 7:30 pm in the morning, like me.

        Like

    1. he should listen to his fantasy then and leave her alone.

      oh, and there is Micaela – the singer said in the intermission she is is not there in her role in the game at that point, but as the wife who wants to get her husband out of the game. though why is she with Escamillo who looks like one of those horrible guys who get into tango only to have an excuse to be chauvinist against women?

      Like

        1. having her make out with Escamillo kind of kills the emotional investment there with the wife coming to get back her husband.

          Like

    1. I think both Carmen and Micaela, which is a nice doubling here?

      And Micaela’s reactions are a good framing of how the fight turns real.

      Like

  10. oh, so José would have kileld Escamillo right now with the knife?

    So it is not about Carmen, but about any woman not being (exclusively) available to him? (another prime problem of toxic masculinity/patriarchy)

    Like

    1. losing the fistfight, or having Micaela make out with another man?
      Either way URGH. Though this is more on society and peer shaming patterns.

      Like

  11. Now she’s Micaela with a nametag. So as the wife she had to watch her husband fight for somebody, not her, and nearly kill someone? and now as Micaela she’s comforting him?

    Like

  12. It just occurred to me, maybe the whole point of this is to show that Jose is really a horrible, violent guy, and so why do we think this is such a good opera?

    Like

  13. the Carmen actress is three phrases away from a restraining order.

    I am fine with the evening until now, but if I am supposed to develop sympathies for José now that he has turned from guy purporting to socially accepted violence to unhinged stalker: no happening.

    Carmen just now: this goes to far, we have to stop this!
    Therapist: You’re an acrtess, you’re getting paid, you have to play on, get to it!

    Like

    1. though I kind of root for her taking away the knife, knocking him out and walking out.

      Or perhaps they will band together and kill the therapist as stand-in for society?

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I don’t know, I’m not really buying the whole thing, all a bit too demonstratively clever for my taste. (And if he really kills her, it is foreseeable and not very clever)

    Like

        1. yes.
          And it is a nice takedown of patriarchy so far, I am just beginning to doubt that the team was aware of it.

          Like

          1. I guess? And I wonder, if we who are actually *looking* for it are having trouble figuring it out, is it going over the heads of most folks in the audience?

            Like

          2. I may be too far in to be the judge of that. To me, it is so obvious, but it might not even be intentional?

            Like

          3. so either Tcherniakov is a really smart feminist, or he is a really self-absorbed chauvinist?

            Like

  15. okay, the true evil is the therapist who just shoved Carmen back into the hall with her stalker.
    I vote for killing that one on the end. perhaps José and Carmen together?

    Like

      1. No, that was when I feared he would actually kill the Carmen address. Putting the murder on society and expectations of masculinity is actually a great move. i just wish it would have been clearer at times, but perhaps that would have been too easy?

        Like

        1. ….and I’m starting to wonder if this critique is actually already present in the libretto? After all, she chooses to reject him, and to me it seems in the final scene that it is not because she loves Esca…(what’s his name?) better, but because her freedom to choose is important to her and she will not be bullied by Jose? But I don’t know enough about Carmen history, it probably has been discussed extensively?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It could be read that way, but it just ticks off so many tropes – unruly woman that must be punished, how can you not reward his feelings?, the whole I love you, Escamillo duet… though after Saturday, I’d say it’s easier to make sense if Carmen than make José sympathetic.

            >

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I’m trying to remember what my perception was when I first saw Carmen aged about 18, not sure about that, but I think it was all very pretty indeed, and I think I was not aware of this being problematic. But I clearly remember later productions where I think the abuse happening was clear to me. Still others in the audience might have seen it very differently. A bit the same as with Gilda.
            And you’re right, the bull-fighter as an prototype of successful masculinity hints a lot into the idealizing direction.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. “…and I think I was not aware of this being problematic.”

            Sigh. SO many operas, after a while and some thought. I think I started with Traviata there, and perhaps it was the most difficult because I one bought into the story. But also Gilda, yes (I always found Gilda kind of bland. Then again, that was beore watching PP take it on, so…)

            Liked by 1 person

          1. Good question. I think he wasn’t aware of it at that point. (Perhaps also a point on that it is the intention, and not the action, that ist at issue here?)

            Like

          2. Hmm. Allyship 101 always says impact =/= intention, though I think here, regardless of whether the knife is “real” or not, his intention is clearly to harm her, and that’s the impact his action has, ’cause it’s terrifying. that whole ending, and I think she’s terrified, though I still don’t understand why she has to hand him the knife (unless she’s not gonna get paid if she doesn’t follow through all the way to the end? talk about some exploitation of labor…)

            Like

          3. Giving him the knife, if the successful ending means he has to kill her, and he is not the only one going through this LARP, would be part of her job, but his case seems to put her more at unease? And she seems surprised by his extreme attack? But yes, there is something about exploitation of labor, and disrespect of emotional labor, and it is gendered, too.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. and, okay, this is more clever than having him actually kill her. but he did MEAN to kill her, so that does not make him any better, but it makes the statement about the society who has produced him.

      Like

  16. okay, it was a stage knife, and he was supposed to react this way, because hey, this is what society pushes men to do? You’re cured, you’re a real mana gain? (which has to be very bitter sarcasm)

    (would be a statement)
    (and the Carmen is pushing him in the end as “Why did you fold to the chauvinist bullshit, you could have taken a stand against it”?)

    Like

      1. the establishment is the worst because it creates/maintains guys like José. The ones losing out are the Carmens and Micaelas.

        Like

          1. Does she get part of the blame? Were her expectations onto him, on their relationship, also unfair? Which is not to excuse any of his actions or his self-concept, just adding a notion on Micaela’s side that toxic masculinity can also be purported by women who have been raised to expect a certain kind “functionality” from male partners that is built on abusive structures?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Oh yes, women can totally perpetuate misogyny and support this mess. And maybe that’s how she walks in, but I’m not sure that’s where she ends up. At least, she seems baffled and she sure isn’t trying to toast him with champagne.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. clearly shocked, and just a clearly not a winner in this – does she get an uneasy inkling of her own participation in the mess?

            Like

        1. Well, that was lots of food for thought, at least. Thank you for your company! Much better than watching this alone, I might have doubted my sanity.

          Like

    1. So José is the perpetrator, but in the end, also a victim of a brutal and sexist establishment, but it does not make him less guilty because he could have taken a stand and he did not?

      Like

          1. obviously still thinking about this. I’m wondering about that ending, when at the back of the stage everyone is celebrating with champagne and claps on the back, hooray, but Carmen and Jose and Micaela are totally undone on the front of the stage. Is that champagne crowd also…the audience? An audience that after a traditional “Carmen” drinks its champagne, oh what a lovely performance, instead of appalled at what they’ve just seen? If part of his point is to turn the reception history of Carmen on its head, would that also include the audience that applauds at the end? (I think if I were in the house I would have been too shocked to applaud.)

            Like

          2. Oh, OH! Yes, that would be a brilliant turn! (And those who would have to get it would not even get it…?)
            Demanding/enjoying conventional Carmens = being complicit in passing on a culture of gendered violence/abuse of workforce? If THAT was the intent, it’s brilliant.

            Liked by 2 people

          3. Hey, good thought, this makes total sense! But thinking further (and see my previous comment about the contents of the libretto) is the audience really usually applauding her death?
            (But of course, applauding after a very sad ending of an opera is always a bit problematic, especially when audiences think they need to cry “Bravooo” into the final chords.)

            Like

          4. I think the libretto notes applause for the killed bull/Escamillo carrying out from the arena?

            >

            Like

          5. well i mean i think the *are* applauding her death. applauding being entertained by this violence against a woman who demands her own agency. so i do think this production is trying to get at that somehow.

            Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s