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29.9.08

Carmen Is a Man, Baby!

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my trip to Baltimore to review the Cabaret de Carmen, previewed on Friday, American Opera Theater's reshaping of Bizet's operatic classic. The review by Mary Carole McCauley in the Baltimore Sun spills the beans:

But Nelson out-Brooks Brook by turning Carmen into a drag queen. Thus, the crime for which Don Jose initially is driven out of town isn't murder, but homosexuality.

This is the second time in recent memory that Nelson has mined a heretofore unsuspected homoerotic element in classic stories; he recently did the same for David et Jonathas, a 1688 opera about two biblical characters by the French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. In Carmen, the lead character is portrayed by a woman playing a man playing a woman; in David, a lead character (Jonathan) is portrayed by a woman playing a man.

This all seems a bit confusing and over-complicated, but it kind of works. If Don Jose is gay, that adds a new tension to the romantic triangle between the soldier, his virginal fiancee, Michaela, and his Gypsy lover.
Just when you thought there were no more sharks to jump. Performances continue at Baltimore Theater Project, from October 2 to 5.

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