If you want to get to Carmen’s Place, you have to get there via the Castillo Theatre, located at 543 West 42nd Street (bet. 10th and 11th Avenues) in Manhattan. But get there before June 16th which will be your last opportunity to view “Carmen’s Place (A Fantasy).”
Directed by Gabrielle L. Kurlander, the play “Carmen’s Place (A Fantasy),” is a takeoff of the French opera, “Carmen” by 19th century French composer Georges Bizet, based on a novella by Prosper Merimee. Carmen is the tale of a free-spirited mid-19th Century Gypsy who lived in Seville, Spain. Unwilling to be possessed by any man, Carmen uses her feminine wiles to manipulate them. She teased men unmercifully, treating them badly once they fell in love with her. Such is the case with the betrothed Don Jose, a soldier, who becomes immediately smitten with Carmen when she tosses him a rose. A feisty one, Carmen is arrested for fighting in the street. Don Jose is ordered by his captain to haul Carmen off to jail for fighting, but she beguiles him and he lets her escape. For this, he served a month in prison clinging to the rose that reminds him of his growing ardor for Carmen. Meanwhile, Carmen becomes entranced by the young bull fighter Escamillo, whom she finds herself falling for, yet continues to bask in the adoration of Don Jose, after his release from prison. Don Jose abandons his betrothed Micela, and his military duties to be with Carmen who toys with his feelings; torturing him, as her own feelings grow stronger for Escamillo. Eventually, she throws Don Jose over for Escamillo, enraging Don Jose, who eventually kills her.
While Americans are used to listening to operas in Italian, German, French, etc., and are sometimes familiar with the arias, the language is often outside of their own. Via Carmen’s Place, the scenes are all done in English, allowing the viewer to understand the libretto.
In our fantasy of Carmen’s Place, we meet Karen Allen (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), a young aspiring operatic singer from Montana, who hopes to establish herself in the world of the City Opera. She is chosen by Maestro Malini (David Woodrow) to portray Carmen, along with the young Don Noble (Dory Schultz) from Forest Hills, who is chosen to play Don Jose and the Spaniard Placido Quesara who portrays Escamillo (Sean Kroll).
Both Gilmore and Schultz have superb operatic voices and Kroll is well suited to the character Placido, whom he portrays as both the modern day New York City Opera aspirant and the 19th century bullfighter, Escamillo, a character that somewhat parallels Placido’s own life.
At lunch one day, Karen, Don and Placido, meet the waitress Carmen Ortiz (Gabrielle Flores) and her cop boyfriend, Jose Lugo (Gabriel Kerr), a young Puerto Rican couple in love, whom the three see as a quasi reflection of the characters they play, except that Ortiz and Lugo are truly in love and trust one another explicitly. Placido is drawn to the waitress. Wanting a bit of adventure herself before marriage, Ortiz tests her relationship with her cop boyfriend by getting to know Placido, discovering what she already knew; her love for Jose is solid as is his for her.
One of the best known arias in Carmen is the “Toreador’s Song,” which is song by Kroll in the play as are songs like “A Stranger in America,” the “Gypsy Song,” (sung by Gilmore) and “Habanera.” Other songs are “Flower Song,” “Duet,” Many Kinds of Love,” “We Mean Forever,” “I Know How To Love,” and “Seville Duet.”
The sets by Joseph Spirito were inventive, especially the Lincoln Center fountain scene. Costumes by Emilie Charlotte, Choreography by Lonne Moretton and music by Sinai Tabak, Michael Walsh and David Belmont, added to the ambiance and dynamics of this production.
If you are a fan of theatre and an opera fan in particular, you will enjoy this play.