Sex, Violence and Passion Pack the Lyric Opera’s “Carmen”

Call out the fire trucks! The Lyric Opera’s second cast for Bizet’s “Carmen” is hot.

The popular opera, which runs at the Civic Opera House through March 27, has been infused with new blood and its gripping drama flows fiercely toward its brutal finale, when Carmen pays for her sins with her life.

Making her Lyric Opera debut is Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva. She is a fiery and able singer and at one point in her sensual dance, her Carmen, who cannot bear being ignored by soldier Don Jose, stands on a pillar and brazenly puts her bare foot on his shoulder. It’s as close to pole dancing as I’ve seen on Lyric’s stage.

Tall, fair-haired American tenor Brandon Jovanovich is every bit the young military man, but his passion for Carmen is his undoing. By the final act, ragged and unkempt, he also seems to have become several inches shorter. This diminishing, however, never affects his glowing voice.

Angel-voiced American soprano Nicole Cabell is an enchanting Michaela, Jose’s sweetheart from back home. Cabell’s warm-hearted performance is as graceful as her perfectly pitched voice.

Kyle Ketelsen, an America bass-baritone, ably reprises his role as the toreador Escamillo, which he took in the fall. Back in the orchestra pit was French conductor Alain Altinoglu.

This opera ends Lyric’s 2010-2011 season in a blaze of glory.

“Carmen” is sung in French with English super-titles and runs 3 hours and 33 minutes. Call 312-332-2244 or visit lyricopera.org