Pared-down 'Carmen' offers fresh view

Critic's Choice: Classical Music

January 27, 2002|By Tim Smith

Even if you know Bizet's Carmen through and through, you're apt to experience something totally fresh with Peter Brook's much-heralded adaptation of the opera -- The Tragedy of Carmen. First seen in Paris in 1981, Brook's pared-down version attempts to refocus our attention on the characters at the heart of this battle between love and lust, faith and fate.

A good deal of Bizet's familiar music is still there, though re-orchestrated for smaller forces; instead of the opera's large cast, there are only four singers and two actors. But Brook brings into the picture much more of the original 1845 story by Prosper Merimee that inspired Bizet three decades later. Merimee's Carmen and, especially, Don Jose, were even earthier than in the opera, and that earthiness is driven home by the in-your-face dimensions of Brook's staging.

Peabody Chamber Opera, directed by John Lehmeyer and conducted by Benjamin Loeb, will present The Tragedy of Carmen in the intimate space of the Theater Project, 43 W. Preston St., at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Feb. 3. Tickets are $5 to $16. Call 410-752-8558.

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