Dancing Into Autumn

The Met’s Russian Mafia, a master funnyman and a showcase for Elan

The Russians have really taken over the Metropolitan Opera. At “Carmen” on September 25, Olga Borodina gave a definitively earthy performance as the wild gypsy. Before the second act, a Met minion strode onstage to announce, “Miss Borodina will continue with the performance, although she is suffering from an allergic reaction.”

“No wonder she’s being such a wanton, ” whispered my date, costumer Willa Kim.

Her husband, Ildar Abdrazakov, who made some hunky toreador of Escamillo, matched Borodina’s vocal and visual voluptuousness. They really filled the cavernous opera house with their passion and, with their entrance into the corrida in the last act, proved they are the most glamorous couple in opera. (Adios, Alagnas!)

Richard Leech managed to make an impression as well, with the fervid, healthy voice of a truly French tenor, making the very most of the ravishing “Flower Aria.” Franco Zeffirelli’s production remains an inert, uninspired thing. I recall how the 1975 “Carmen” I saw, with Regine Crespin snapping her French-like fresh haricots verts, directed by Josef Svoboda, brilliantly evoked the scorching white-hot sunlight of Seville. Alvin Ailey devised a ferociously fast, sexy ballet for the gypsy tavern scene, with a Fosse-like dragging of chairs, with black bandannas and cigarettes perched on lower lips, that remains the best dancing I have ever seen on that stage. Couldn’t the Met at least revive that unbeatable moment in all future productions?

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