(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/27 via Pam Green.)
By the time the woman in the cafe starts to sing that the music has taken over her body — her bones, her stomach, her heart — you’re in no position to question the diagnosis. You’ve been feeling that same, gut-deep response almost since the first notes were sounded in “Carmen Jones,” which opened on Wednesday at Classic Stage Company.
This may also be the moment at which you accept for good that John Doyle’s transformative revival of this once-shunned, sui generis work from 1943 — a strange hybrid of opera (the score is that of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”) and musical theater (the lyrics are by Oscar Hammerstein II) — isn’t going to be embarrassing. It is, on the contrary, sublime.
There’s no point trying to resist such sheer, distilled beauty. Your chances would be about as good as those of our helpless hero in escaping the erotic pull of the show’s title character, thrillingly embodied here by Anika Noni Rose.
And it all could have gone so wrong.