The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

04 November 2014

In which Carmen suddenly sets a trend ta ra ta ta

Sometimes technology is absolutely the Bee's Knees. One example of BK technology is live streaming to movie theatres. Through the magical qualities of cyber space, a person who lives in Sohoe is able to experience opera and ballet from New York, theatre from London - all live - as well as participate in tours of the Vatican, the Hermitage, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Rijksmuseum... actually, the possibilities are limited only by what someone hasn't yet thought of.  For this particular resident of Sohoe, I think it's fabulous.  Fabulous, I say!

This past weekend was the fabulousness of Carmen. It's an interesting opera for many reasons, one of which being that all my life I've been calling her CARmen, but learned on Saturday that opera-types call her carrrrMEN with a very trilled 'r'.  It's a French opera, you see, but it's set in Spain so throw in as much embellishment as you can.  Here are reasons why CarrrrMEN is fabulous:

*Even if you're not a fan of the warbling long notes of opera, CarrrrrMEN's easy because nearly every duet, aria, and overture is featured on "Top Ten Pieces of Music You Always Hear But Never Knew Where They Came From" type albums. I've still got the "ba da ba DA, ba da ba da, ba da-da-da-da-da-da-da. da.da" piece running through my brain. You know the one I mean.

*Bizet, the composer, was a dude well ahead of his time. You think 50s pop blazed new trails with their do-wa-diddies and shoo-doops?  Not a bit of it, for Carmen's best known aria is full of fa la tra las. I figure we can let Bizet off the hook because there were so many notes to write in the score, he must have been exhausted, or ran out of ink, or maybe he meant to come back to that bit and fill in some rhyming words and plum forgot but by opening night it was too late to change it, and that's how we have the Fa la Tra la-ing Carmen of today. (Yes, the libretto is a different beast. I don't let facts ruin a good story.)

*Because it's in French, there are phrases like tout-a-coup. In what other opera are you going to hear that?  It means 'all of a sudden' and we used to practice it in french class by composing sentences of ludicrous scenarios, such as "Tout a coup la salle de bain a explose" which means "Suddenly the bathroom exploded."  That was made up by a boy. When CarrrrMEN sang "tout a coup something something" I had a happy moment of french class memories.

Opera has entered a period of refreshing, whereby the old standards are being re-staged in new productions with new stage design and costumes, so that the Marriage of Figaro your grandmother knew is not the Marriage of Figaro being staged today. A trend I've noticed this year is bare feet, and principal characters laying on the floor. Perhaps this is a money saving approach?  With fewer shoes to buy and less furniture to build, the Met must be saving a fortune!

One of the very fun things about the live streaming is the glimpse we are given into the backstage world of theatre or ballet or opera. It's like we get dvd bonus features with interviews of the performers, designers, conductors, and being able to watch scene changes from behind the curtain.  I love that kind of stuff!

I leave you with these words from the Choeur des gamins in act one:
Ta ra ta ta ta
Ta ra ta ta ra ta ta
Ta ra ta ta ra ta ta ta


  1. CarrrMEN. Alas, I've gone lo these many years without pronouncing it correctly. It could be a handy word to throw out in casual conversation. Like if a visitor knocks upon one's door. CarrMEN carrMEN carrrrrMENNNN!!

  2. Use every opportunity to speak it out, Nancy: CarrrMEN!

  3. When I try, my tongue goes all funny and it sounds like I'm getting ready to cough.

  4. Hmmm... that sounds like a French, back-of-the-throat sort of 'r'. Can you try a more Spanish approach with tongue right behind the teeth?

  5. I'll practice and get back to you. I've been making too many strange sounds today!

  6. A certain number of strange sounds in any given day is acceptable. The trick is to find that number before you're taken away in a padded wagon!