In a theatre with 606 seats and with the Gainesville orchestra playing live (strings in the pit and percussion divided evenly on the wings, where the timpani can get the showcase it deserves for Rodion Shchedrin’s score (after Georges Bizet) that is devoid of brass and infused with new-world percussion instruments), Sonia Calero-Alonso’s tender direction was everywhere—shown in the male characters as much as the female—for example, in the subtleties of Davis Robertson’s performance.
Robertson, a Florida native, confided to this reviewer that Calero-Alonso was putting the finishing touches on his interpretations through the Thursday night dress rehearsal. His controlled and refined ‘pull down’ of his sleek, brocaded uniform shirt and sleeves deeply conveyed the idea that this military superior is no brute. His power is sophisticated and certain. Robertson stays in this persona throughout the performance. Further, Stearns makes us believe he is following his superior’s motions in the early military scenes when it is made clear that Don José intends to follow the rule of law.
The abandonment of his commitment to service in his quest for Carmen’s love creates the platform for Stearns to break your heart. He is not an evil character, and his facial expressions mirror first his devotion to service, then to Carmen, then to his heartache when she slips from his grasp. Carmen turns her wilds on him to stop him from taking her to jail. And once he has fallen, we enjoy their moments together, believing somehow—maybe this time—Carmen will feel her compassion for him in time and ignore the matador and remove Zúñiga’s chance to look on from the Inquisition perch to see her betray her Don with Torero. But, alas, Carmen is freedom, and she loves in the moment.
Further, the adroit lines of the masked females clad in orange and black harlequinesque, color-blocked costumes keep the intended oppression of governmental power ever-present. The tension of the very real power pushing against Carmen is further enforced by the stoic soldier troupe, masked and clad in black, obedient in their mirror moves on stage—silent and judgmental when seated in their chairs atop the bull ring.
Near the end of the performance, the audience becomes resigned to the inevitable outcome during the dream sequence dance when Carmen’s lovers and her foil, The Bull (Fate), masked and dressed in a solid black body suit, foresee Carmen’s impending
death, a death that soon follows. The Bull, a female form, was danced by Brittany Larrimer on Friday and Francesca Kraszewski on Saturday. Both dancers foiled Carmen well, as Lane met The Bull aggressively, shoulders back, gaze fixed, and a face and form resigned to win the day.