Whether it’s to see Titus Andronicus at The Globe or Rebecca at the Yvonne Arnaud, I’ll be there, over excited and filled with nervy anticipation. So when the opportunity arose to see Ellen Kent’s interpretation of Carmen at the Theatre Royal Brighton, I jumped at the chance. I don’t know a great deal about operatic conventions or etiquette, or even my arse from an oboe, but what I do know is that I love it!
For those of you who don’t know much about Carmen, it was written by French composer Georges Bizet and first performed in Paris in 1875. It tells the story of Don José, a soldier stationed in 1830 Seville, who, despite being engaged to his fiancé, Micaëla, falls for the dusky and ample chested gypsy, Carmen. What ensues is a rip-roaring tale of jealousy, love affairs, smuggling, bullfighting and of course, music.
Ellen Kent is a big player in the world of theatre and delivers a sensational depiction of Bizet’s 4 act work. The sets were impressive and well-designed, especially the portrayal of Seville Square. The costumes were historically accurate and beautifully designed too. There was even the use of a particularly well-behaved donkey, who to my childish disappoint didn’t have a Blue Peter moment on stage.
The orchestra, composed of musicians from the Chisinau National Opera, were the unsung heroes (excuse the pun) of this production. Not only were they a well-oiled machine with an excellent conductor but they seemed truly passionate about their work and their enjoyment helped lift the performance. Whether it was playing in unison or delivering a solo they blew everyone away with their talent.
The acting was somewhat hammy but that is a massive afterthought when you have a cast whose voices are sublime. They moved from sung dialogue to powerful arias with ease and made the entire process seem effortless.
Of course the portrayal of Carmen by Liza Kadelnik, was a tour de force (and has to be.) Her ability, movements and beauty made for a wonderful leading lady. There were excellent performances on the whole- notably from Alyona Kistenyova portraying Micaëla, which is never an easy role, and Lurie Gisca as Escamillo. His physical presence, voice and charisma very nearly stole the show. Sadly Ruslan Zinevych’s Don José was disappointing in the first 2 acts and came across as weak. That said, by the final act he was truly impressive and moved the audience as he sang “Ah! Carmen! Ma Carmen adorée!”
Carmen also features two of the most famous arias of all time- Habanera sung by Carmen in Act 1 and the Toreador Song by Escamillo in Act 2- which I was hugely looking forward to. They were delivered wonderfully and didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Each note was pitch perfect and sung with true operatic gusto and passion.
As always the amazing Theatre Royal and their staff helped make the evening even better and overall it was a damn fine night out with my lady love and the family.
Bizet would be proud and I can’t wait to see what Kent has up her sleeve next.