Bernard Uzan's current production of Bizet's well-known Carmen is largely naturalistic but for a few mild stylizations. As Wednesday night's José (three roles in SO's production are double-cast), Chapa brings a somewhat glutinous tenor and a heavily glottal approach to diction. Opposite him, Anita Rachvelishvili makes for a smart and sly Carmen, if never a truly fiery one; she has a very dark-timbred voice, a very pronounced vibrato, and a not-infallible ability to sing on pitch. I don't mean it as snark when I say she's at her most captivating in her spoken dialogue (in French opera-comique style, rather than grand opera style, not all the text is sung); it's an uncommon quality for an opera singer to be able to compel attention equally whether singing or not. Seattle Opera audiences are not reflexive standing-ovationers, but they're quick with "Bravo!"s when warranted, and it was telling that neither José's aria nor Carmen's signature "Habanera" got more than polite applause. Under Pier Giorgio Morandi, the orchestra sounds lively and snappy, if never punchy or explosive. I later heard complaints about slow tempos, but none of his choices strike me as particularly unusual. R. Keith Brumley's sets and especially Donald Edmund Thomas' lighting achieve ravishingly painterly effects; the Act 1 cigarette girls' chorus appear like a Bouguereau full of languid nymphs. GAVIN BORCHERT

Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays; Sun., Oct. 23. Starts: Oct. 15. Continues through Oct. 29, 2011

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