San Diego Opera – Georges Bizet: Carmen

From possible ruin several years ago, San Diego Opera has emerged stronger. Each production renews SD Opera’s deserved position among the country’s great opera companies.

For the final production of the season, SD Opera presented a smashing production of Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen.

The robust cast features four strong principals: Ginger Costa-Jackson as Carmen, Robert Watson as Don José, Scott Conner as Escamillo and Sarah Tucker as Micaëla.

Mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson is Carmen and tenor Robert Watson is Don Jose in San Diego Opera’s CARMEN, March/April, 2019. Photo by J. Kat Woronowicz.

Bass Scott Conner is Escamillo. Photo by J. Kat Woronowicz.

Soprano Sarah Tucker is Micaela and tenor Robert Watson is Don Jose. Photo by J. Kat Woronowicz.

Costa-Jackson brings the requisite sultriness as the femme fatale who breaks successive men’s hearts. Watson’s character has the most dramatic arc, from dutiful son and soldier to deserter to spurned lover and inevitable murderer. Tucker’s Micaëla is the bastion of purity, and she assays her role well given that Micaëla moves through the action almost unwavering, as a foil to Don Jose’s increasing despair. Watson’s lead male role is filled with increasing angst, and his strong vocal delivery conveys the passion he suffers.

As stalwart bullfighter Escamillo, Conner exudes the confidence needed to be a hero not only to the large number of townspeople in the cast, but most crucially to Carmen.

(L-R) Soprano Tasha Koontz is Frasquita, mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson is Carmen, and mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz. Photo by J. Kat Woronowicz.

(L-R) Tenor Felipe Prado is Remendado, soprano Tasha Koontz is Frasquita, baritone Bernardo Bermudez is Dancairo, mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz is Mercedes, and mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson is Carmen. Photo by J. Kat Woronowicz.

It was glorious to see the large Civic Theatre stage filled by a large cast, including a contingent of youth. Indeed, the impressive scenery across the four acts is cleverly built around one major piece. The scenery and props have been rented from Lyric Opera of Kansas City, which built them in their shop.  (It took 980 man hours to load in the show and assemble the set, hang the lights and set up the orchestra pit; if one person was to do this all alone it would take 24½ weeks based on a 40 hour work week).

The scenic design by R. Keith Brumley is excellent.  Also impressive are the costumes. Given the large size of the cast, it is not surprising that the comparisons to the previous Rigoletto production are instructive: 260 looks and 1,920 costume pieces (compared with 64 and 1,920 for Rigoletto).

Act II was the strongest, as the characters have been sufficiently developed for the audience to empathize. Further, the melodies have begun to coalesce and the recurring theme of the opera is woven in at key moments.

Yves Abel conducted the orchestra with assurance and Kyle Lang’s direction and choreography moved the performers around the stage smoothly.

A diversion of two male ballet dancers performed on an empty stage before each act, as a sort of knee play.

SD Opera’s season continues with one more performance of Carmen and in May with One Amazing Night 2019.






Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.