Carmen @ The English National Opera Review

Despite an outstanding musical performance, Carmen lacks a decisive believability that would have brought this intriguing concept to life, the orchestra however excels.

Courtesy of Richard Hubert Smith.

Courtesy of Richard Hubert Smith.

This is a translated production of Bizet’s most famous opera, and I am not averse to doing this, however when done poorly, the results are uneasy, cringe-worthy dialogue forced into a rhythm which jars. Translation can work brilliantly, it is a great way to bring in a wider audience, however, when not used to explore is flat. Christopher Cowell(Translator) hints at an adventurous translation but then fails to go there and bring the dialogue liveness.

We see a playful flirtation play out between Carmen and the soldiers with Habanera being choreographed excellently by Calixto Bieito (Director). After eloping with smugglers, Don Jose (David Butt Philip) and Carmen’s (Justina Gringyte) relationship breaks down. She is seduced by an excellently comic Escamilio (Ashley Riches) only to be tracked down and killed by Don Jose. The show holds suspense well and it flies by, which provokes an interest in how the classic operas hold tension in a plot so well known that we hum the tune as the Toreador aria begins.

An exceptionally deep stage gives the audience too much distance and it may benefit from the intensity of a performance teetering over the orchestra, Valentina Peleggi (Conductor) is excellent and brings one of my favourite operas into a vibrant reality. Fundamentally, what frustrates me about this is that I struggle to see what has been brought to the stage that Bizet did not write into his original score. The concept provokes interest but is never explored and themes are never fleshed out.

Review written by Tom Carter.

Carmen was shown from Wednesday 29th January until Thursday 27th February 2020 at the English National Opera. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop