It’s little wonder that Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most popular operas in the world; a simple storyline, iconic music and an exotic setting means that it is often dubbed as a starting point for the opera novice. Set in 1820s Seville, Carmen is a fiery gypsy temptress who falls in and out of love, much to the despair of her latest beau, Don José. Like countless deviant women in theatre and literature, the ending is a predictably sorry one for poor Carmen.
Performed by Edinburgh Grand Opera, the soloists are, by and large, far superior to what would typically be expected of an amateur group, if overpowered by the orchestra at times. What Jakob Holtze as Don José lacks in projection he makes up for in emotion, and delivers a beautiful “Le fleur que tu m’avais jetée”. His duet with Micaëla (Jennifer Baird) is equally transfixing, with Baird’s interpretation of “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” another highlight. Mikhail Pavlov is humourously charismatic as Escamillo, and his voice is by far the strongest of the men. But the surprise blow-away performance comes from Catriona Morison. Excellently supported in her role of Mercédès by Angela Estrada as Frasquita, Morison brings the whole production into full colour with astonishing projection, a full tone and demanding stage presence. What she’s doing on an amateur stage is anyone’s guess – keep your eyes peeled, because she won’t be there much longer.
But what detracts from such surprise quality is the replacement of all recitatives with a spoken English narration. Jennifer Hainey’s comparatively flat, gruff interruptions detract from the flow of both the music and the story, and often result in a weird scenario where actors are miming instead of singing (or even speaking) it themselves. Clearly director Christina Dunwoodie has tried to make the opera more accessible for a presumably inexperienced audience, but this really just rings of dumbing down. The beauty of Carmen is that it’s already easy to follow – surely good acting and careful staging is not only better, but also possible?
But as with any amateur production, you can’t have it all, and with tickets to the professional opera among some of the most expensive in the arts, Edinburgh Grand Opera provides a uniquely affordable opportunity to see some impressive singers. Act quickly, because it won’t be long before one or two will have you paying top dollar for the same privilege.
One Response to “Carmen”
Leave a Reply
Anti-Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree