When the mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton came along, there were those who regarded her as the Second Coming of Stephanie Blythe—not that Blythe had gone anywhere. Both are artists of lush vocal endowments, high technical polish, remarkable interpretive finesse. How comfortably Carmen sits in either one’s wheelhouse would be a matter of opinion. For the record, Blythe sang the gypsy temptress in Seattle in 2004. Carmen’s not “a bad girl,” she said at the time, but a “walking pheromone,” reiterating her point in New York on a later date, when she pelted a gala audience at Carnegie Hall with roses in cellophane to the strains of her silken “Habañera” (see YouTube). Now, Chicago Opera Theater is advertising Barton’s “hotly anticipated” debut in the same role. Blythe is onboard as the mama’s boy Don José, a tenor role said to fit her “like a glove.” To add to the fun, the program lists her under the pseudonym “Blythely Oratonio,” intended to confuse absolutely no one. Art or camp? Who’s to say? Is there a difference anymore? —M.G.
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