by David Cohen

Carmen, playing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, tells the story of the seductive gypsy and her two lovers, Don Jose and a matador.

What could make a man cheat on his fiancée, drive his mother to tears, and ditch a good job? One woman -- Carmen! She’s the sex-bomb, gypsy seductress who loves them and leaves them — tossing egos and hearts in the dust.

Iowa-born mezzo-soprano, Katharine Goeldner who plays the role of Carmen, replaced Kate Aldrich who had to withdraw from what was to be her debut due to side effects of pregnancy.

There is no question in my mind that Ms. Goeldner has a good voice and stage presence, but unfortunately as Carmen, you have to be dramatically and vocally convincing as the gypsy temptress something Goeldner is not. Being seductive, passionate, young and beautiful, is what Carmen is all about. That’s what the audience expect to see on stage–femme fatal.

South Korean tenor Lee Younghoon who plays the role of Don José is the nicest surprise of this production. Lee, who is making his Lyric debut in these performances, is truly believable as the murderous stalker in the final act. His good looks and powerful voice just made Carmen less convincing. There’s something terribly wrong when it is Don José and not Carmen, steals the show. His great voice range rises to any occasion, beautifully noticed when he sings his flower song in act two. He also proves that he can sing and act.

With a powerful soprano, Cuban-American Elaine Alvarez, who plays Micaëla, was a delight to the ears. I also enjoyed Kyle Ketelsen who plays the matador Escamillo. This Iowa native baritone has a great voice and sexy stage presence. Watch his upcoming career.

All the supportive roles from soprano Jennifer Jakob, mezzo Emily Fons, baritone Paul Scholten and tenor René Barbera, they are all very impressive in their parts.

But it’s the music that takes center stage. Without a doubt, it’s the music that make us come back again and again, to watch the most loved opera ever written.

For more information about shows in October 2010 or March 2011, visit www.lyricopera.org.