Washington National Opera’s production of “Carmen” is halfway through its run. The company has fielded a second cast for the four lead roles, heard on Friday night at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
French mezzo-soprano Géraldine Chauvet, who was a nondescript Fenena in WNO’s “Nabucco” in 2012, had much less vocal heft than Clémentine Margaine, her counterpart in the first cast. Chauvet’s Carmen was a saucy flirt rather than a femme fatale, and where there was almost no laughter in the audience on opening night, all the potentially silly lines in the libretto got nervous giggles, likely because Carmen seemed more coy than dangerous.
Tenor Rafael Davila’s voice has gained some heroic luster since a solid company debut in “Norma” in 2013, although intonation and control issues at the top were still in evidence. The big Act II aria, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée,” showed a potential sweetness of tone but also some insecurities, perhaps caused in part by a mangled statement of the fate theme in the English horn in the introduction.
Two former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists made favorable impressions. The Micaëla of Jacqueline Echols had a lighter sound, with less vibrato at the top, than her first-cast counterpart, making her a sweeter, more innocent character. Aleksey Bogdanov was a stronger Escamillo, too, although the competition there was much less difficult.
Downey is a freelance writer.