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Bizet's 'Carmen'

June 17, 1985|LEWIS SEGAL

In a concert performance at the Wadsworth Theater on Saturday, the Marina del Rey/Westchester Symphony rescued Bizet's "Carmen" from the distortions imposed by recent film, flamenco and sandbox-theater adaptations.

Lyrical, leisurely, with scrupulous concern for orchestral balance and detail, Frank Fetta's conducting reconnected "Carmen" to its proper stylistic milieu: 19th-Century French opera. No sweaty modernism, no false drama, no rushed tempi, no bloated sonorities.

Fetta, the orchestra, chorus (from the Opera Theatre of the Inland Empire and Musart Singers) and many of the principal singers had ventured "Carmen" under similar conditions at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre four years ago.

Instrumental and choral forces again nearly filled the stage, leaving the soloists singing at the very front, behind Fetta's back. Consequently, coordination suffered, especially in the "Chanson boheme."

However, the concentrated deployment did have advantages: Such passages as the entrance of the cigarette girls (and the "La fumee" chorus) achieved a multi-layered, symphonic richness rarely heard in staged performances.

Adrienne Leonetti made an intelligent, easygoing Carmen, her intonation (and French) much improved from her performance a decade ago at Casa Italiana, her tone brighter, her dramatic instincts even more sharply honed.

Apart from some spreading tone, Joan Zajac sang Micaela strongly--her fervent "Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante" earned the evening's most prolonged ovation.

Although Gary Fisher's anti-heroic conception of Jose had promise, he offered painfully strained and wiry vocalism throughout the evening. Nor did David Myrvold sound especially fresh as Escamillo. However, Francesco Sorianello exuded enormous dramatic authority and vocal power as Zuniga.

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