- Tenor Jonas Kaufman (Don Jose)
If you’re free at noon next Monday, how about a quick trip to Italy? That is, to drop in on opening night — yes, night — at the world’s most famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala in Milan. You don’t even need to dress up, let alone buy plane tickets. Merrill’s Roxy Cinemas in Burlington is broadcasting the swanky event live in high definition. The program: Georges Bizet’s Carmen.
If there’s one opera non-opera-goers can enjoy — and one that regulars go to ad infinitum — it’s the eminently hummable Carmen. Most people already know the triumphant toreador’s song. The rest of the music is as seductive as the work’s eponymous heroine, the Spanish gypsy cigarette-factory worker who loves men and danger, preferably together. (Though the work takes place in Spain, Bizet wrote it in his native French, using plenty of spoken dialogue; HD viewers will be provided with English subtitles.)
The story boils down to this: Defiantly independent woman seduces earnest corporal, casts him off for sexy toreador, then pays with her life. The scenario of a woman killed by her jealous lover is remarkably enduring — minus the toreador, of course, not to mention the castanet dances, a mountain smuggling scene and the finale outside Sevilla’s bullfighting arena. But then, this is opera. As soprano Denyce Graves once sang with an admirably straight face to Elmo in “Sesame Street,” to the tune of a Carmen aria, “In opera we like things big.” (See the YouTube gem.)
Burlington is one of 25 cities nationwide to broadcast La Scala’s opening, according to Giovanni Cozzi, managing partner at the New York City-based distributor Emerging Pictures. Carmen is the first real-time broadcast in the Roxy’s “Opera in Cinema” series, ongoing since June. Owner Merrill Jarvis III says there are more to come, including one from Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu. For Vermonters, it’s a chance to see the European counterparts of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, whose live broadcasts have been selling out at South Burlington’s Palace 9 Cinemas. And where better to start than opera’s own birthplace, l’Italia?