Dallas Opera's 'Carmen' delivers a fine cast and elegant orchestral playing under music director Emmanuel Villaume

10.20.18
Emmanuel Villaume
The Dallas Morning News

For the third time since 2004, the Dallas Opera is presenting Carmen. Well, there are reasons for its enduring popularity, and it sells tickets.
 
With earthy dramatis personae including Gypsies, smugglers, soldiers and a star bullfighter, it's gripping theater: doomed obsession confronts live-for-the-moment irresponsibility. And composer George Bizet's tunes, elegantly orchestrated, are second to none; you'll still be humming them the next day.
 
The Gothenburg Opera production that opened Friday night at the Winspear Opera House is done opéra comique style, with spoken, rather than sung, dialogue. Visually, it's mainly traditional, with splendid mid-19th-century costumes by Sue Blane. But set designer Michael Vale takes some liberties, perversely cramping the first and last acts far forward on the stage.
 
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The real stars of the show may be music director Emmanuel Villaume and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Villaume has this music in his blood, and he gauges timing, dynamics and shape to perfect dramatic effect. The orchestra gave him all the precision and nuance he could have wished Friday night, with particularly eloquent wind and horn contributions.