Opera: Dance of Life

No operatic style is more closely wedded to its native language than the small but heady French repertory. Its best composers, from Rameau to Poulenc, created music that wraps itself tightly around every inflection of the spoken word. Without French-born singers who can respond instinctively to the language embedded in the music, French opera is likely to languish—which is just what has been happening at New York's Metropolitan.

Even so, no company can long endure without a Carmen on its list, and last week, after six years' absence, Bizet's supple shocker returned to...

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