The other night we went to Regal Cinema to see the HD performance of the Metropolitan Opera's Carmen. We took our usual seats in the back row, high up, and I looked down on an audience of older people. There might have been one or two under fifty. I stared at all that white hair, and gray hair--mine was concealed under a headband. In a few minutes we would hear the passions of young people.
The singing was magnificent--Elina Garanca as Carmen and Robert Alagna as Don Jose--but I found myself losing interest. Garanca played Carmen without nuance. Her Carmen was teeth-flashing, voraciously sensual and cruel. A femme fatale, nothing else.
At one point I heard J. snort with laughter. "What's funny?" I whispered. "He's crawling over her like a monkey," J. answered. Alagna is not a tall man.
The opera came to its fateful conclusion, as all opera does. Don Jose stabs Carmen to death. Garanca's Carmen is defiant; she embraces her death.
The curtain came down; the singers smiled as the audience applauded. "No one really dies in opera. They just take their bows," I said. In fiction, the characters really do seem to die. They do not put down their masks and bow. The author does not step from the pages and bow. But year after year there will be new Carmens, living and dying. As they bow before the curtain, restored to their own names, they show us the illusionary nature of art.