Diverse Diva

Bracha Kol brings a personal interpretation to Carmen and her other opera roles.

bracha kol 88 (photo credit: )
bracha kol 88
(photo credit: )
Bracha Kol would never be cast as the "best friend" in a Hollywood movie. She is far too beautiful. Alternating with Rachel Frenkel in the role of Mercedes in the Israeli Opera's revival of Zefferelli's staging of Carmen, her involvement in the role is intense. "Each role is the role of my life," she says, then smiles mischievously, "of course, the day after it's over I feel very differently." Having performed in an international production of Carmen at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in May 2008, directed by Carlos Saura, she commented on the differences between the two productions. According to Kol, Saura's direction was very traditional and the set was minimalist and modern. Zefferelli's version, in contrast, is very colorful, with a huge cast with a more elaborate and realistic set. A child prodigy on the recorder, Kol began her performing career in music at age 10 and graduated from the Utrecht Conservatory at age 17 with highest honors. Though, Kol felt confined by her achievements in music. "I was always asked to play the same two pieces which required complex fingering technique," she explained, "I felt that I had more to express than fast finger work." She began taking voice lessons in secret, seeking a more fulfilling mode of self expression, and found herself taking a new path in her career. Drawn to opera for its expressive qualities and merging of art forms, Kol clearly enjoys immersing herself in the movement, music and character of each new role, from Cinderella to the Fox in Cunning Little Vixen. Of the latter role she says, "It was the first time I sang the role of a man. It taught me a lot about the fragility of men. Women often feel that the man has the power and they are waiting for the man to call. But I suddenly realized that the woman has the power - the man is waiting for the woman to say yes." Kol has her own thoughts regarding Bizet's popular opera, "People think of Carmen as representing freedom and rebellion. They say that if she had been a man the story would have played out very differently and she would not have died in the end. But what is freedom, really? I don't think that Carmen is about free love. I think she truly loves Don José and when he turns his attention away from her, even slightly, it destroys her and she no longer has any desire to live." "If the opera was only about sexual freedom it would be very superficial and I don't think it would have stood the test of time," Kol remarks, adding, "It could not carry four hours of opera." Kol feels that Carmen defines her freedom through her loyalty to her principles, her friends and her work, albeit as a smuggler, "This is about survival." Kol notes that Carmen's friends Mercedes and Frasquita are by her side throughout most of the opera. She views them as reflections of Carmen's character, reinforcing similar themes, while the domestic, modest Michaela stands in contrast. For Kol, the scene in which Frasquita and Mercedes read their fortunes in the cards, Mercedes seeing a young lover while Frasquita predicts a wealthy older man for herself, expresses a central theme in the opera: the choice between love and fortune. It is a lighthearted scene with darker undertones and implications. Carmen runs through June 13 at the Israeli Opera House. 19 Sderot Shaul Hamelech, (03) 692-7777. The writer blogs at www.midnighteast.com