Saturday, March 2, 2013

Celebrating the anniversary of Carmen's premiere

Nmon Ford as Escamillo in Szeged
Georges Bizet's popular opera Carmen debuted on March 3, 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The opera was only mildly successful and the composer died almost three months to the day after the premiere. It's another one of those operas that we love for having three barihunk roles, the major role of the torreador Escamillo, the Lieutenant of Dragoons Zuniga, and the Corporal of Dragoons Moralès.

Escamillo arrives in Act 2 with his famous aria "Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre" (a.k.a. the Torreador Song). Bizet was reportedly contemptuous of the music that he wrote for Escamillo, remarking of the Torreador Song, "Well, they asked for ordure, and they've got it." We've had many baritones remark to us that it's a fiendishly and deceptively difficult aria to sing.

In the original play by Prosper Mérimée, Escamillo is a peripheral character, a picador named Lucas who is only briefly Carmen's grand passion. At the premiere, Escamillo was sung by the Belgian-born baritone Jacques Bouhy, who had already made a name for himself singing Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust and as Mozart's Figaro.

Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo
Escamillo is a perfect barihunk role, as he's often portrayed as dashing and debonair, decked out in a uniform or other sexy costume, making him a particularly striking and attractive character. Some of the sexiest singers in the world today have Escamillo in their repertory, including Michael Todd Simpson, Mariusz Kwiecien, Nmon Ford, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Ildar Abdrazakov, Kyle Ketelsen, Alexander Vinogradov and Fernando Radó.

Lee Poulis sings Escamillo

1 comment:

  1. This is ridiculous. The poor singer is undercut by the production, the costume and the direction - not to mention the absurd amplification. The singer is lost in all of that.