Singers applauded, director booed at La Scala opener

Mon Dec 7, 2009 6:01pm EST
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By Ilaria Polleschi and Jo Winterbottom

MILAN (Reuters) - Georges Bizet's "Carmen," a tale of love, jealousy and murder, opened the season on Monday at Milan's La Scala to applause for the singers but boos for the creator of its sparse staging, Emma Dante.

The glamorous first-night crowd included "Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown, who described the performance as "spectacular" and said he could imagine setting some scenes for his next Robert Langdon novel in the 18th century opera house.

"There's quite a few good characters for novels walking around the foyer," Brown said.

But Dante's stark settings -- looming warehouses and walls for the bullring -- did not please everyone.

Conductor Daniel Barenboim -- who said the production would become a legend -- gave Dante one of many roses thrown to the singers and musicians as the two stood alone being booed in front of the red curtain after more than 10 minutes of applause for the cast.

Barenboim had promised that his "Carmen" would have "a knife at her throat all the time" during the performance, which marks the start of La Scala's 2009-2010 season.

The opera kept the tension high right up to the final scene when Carmen's former lover, Don Jose, cuts her throat as the crowd cheers for the matador who has killed the bull.

Barenboim had chosen recent La Scala academy graduate and mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili to play the defiant gypsy Carmen after she tried out for a more minor part.   Continued...

<p>Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili (top) performs during a dress rehearsal for the opera Carmen at the Opera house La Scala in Milan November 28, 2009. REUTERS/Marco Brescia/Teatro La Scala/Handout</p>