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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly..

It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..

As Art Week approaches, Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater is getting ready to add its distinctive voice, rehearsing for the upcoming performance of “Flowers” at the C..

Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..

Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..

It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..

It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..

A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”­—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..

When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..

Duende Eludes FGO’s ‘Carmen’

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Written by: Fernando Landeros
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It is difficult to describe duende. Far from elf or goblin, in its literal translation from Spanish, it is the war of emotions being fought in our groin as we experience a work of art. Duende is irrational, sometimes dark, primal, and of course, supernatural. To have duende is to be able to invoke those forces from the soul, and make everyone present imbibe them.

Last Saturday evening, Florida Grand Opera opened its 75th season with Georges Bizet’s operatic masterpiece Carmen, a work that has duende boiling under its skin; but sadly, the cast could not bring it up to the surface.

Based on Prosper Mérimée’s eponymous novella about a Gypsy femme fatale taken to her death by her jealous lover, Carmen paints a masterful portrait of how passion devours our senses.

Unlike Mérimée, Bizet was never in Spain, and the music he composed for Carmen is very much French. He did, however, incorporate idioms used in flamenco music and a Spanish folk song or two for added flavor. Bizet’s genius lies in how well his music depicts the progression of emotions experienced by the characters throughout the work.

Carmen’s true protagonist is Don José, the lover that brings her to her tragic demise. He starts off as an honest army officer, who could have enjoyed a blissful life marrying his hometown sweetheart Micaëla. Instead he meets Carmen, the embodiment of vice, and quickly finds himself under her spell. He follows her into a life of crime, where his love for her turns into obsession and rage, and when she gets tired of him and finds a new lover, he surrenders to despair.

Don José is a strenuous role that stands tall against any verismo hero of Puccini or Mascagni. Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Dávilagot through it vocally, but could not convincingly portray his character’s emotional deterioration.

The spark between Dávila and Spanish mezzo-soprano María José Montiel, the evening’s Carmen, was not even big enough to light a match. Montiel knows exactly what to do with her glorious voice, but not so much with her striking body. Carmen exudes sex, and by the end of Act I, having sung “Habanera”and “Seguidilla,” everyone watching should have been aroused. Montiel remained refined throughout the performance.

Duende was awakened by choreographer Rosa Mercedes and her rivetingflamencodancers, starting with the “Gypsy Song” at the beginning of Act II. Their delivery was intoxicating, and left the stage polished for one of the most recognizable arias in all opera, the “Toreador Song.”

The role of the bullfighter Escamillo seems to be tailor made for bass-baritone Ryan Kuster. He has the dark colored voice and magnetism and he would have stolen the show, had he been audible. Kuster had not been fighting bulls but an infection, and was rendered powerless.

It was difficult to appreciate stage director Bernard Uzan’s vision for the drama with such a disjointed cast. Still, some of his creative questions could be heard. Right before the curtain rose, Uzan reduced Carmento a dead bull being dragged away after a fight. Then, choosing to end Act II with the music of the prelude to Act III, he tenderized her with an amorous ballet between her and Don José. Who is Carmen,really? A dangerous obsession? A perfectly balanced object of desire? The incarnation of duende? No one can know.

Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ presented by FGO, Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8:00 p.m., Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; and at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $19 to $200; www.fgo.org.

 


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About The writer

Classical pianist, music writer

Fernando Landeros is a pianist who has performed throughout Mexico, the United States, Australia, Germany, and Austria. A native of San Diego, his..

About the Writer

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