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Review: WNO - Carmen @ WMC

Posted by Weeping Tudor from Cardiff - Published on 26/09/2014 at 16:04
0 comments » - Tagged as Art, Dance, Music, Stage, Alcohol

  • Carmen

Welsh National Opera - Carmen
Wales Millennium Centre
Friday 19th September 2014

A performance of Carmen could never be as bad as this!

After the Chorus of WNO attempted the Ice Bucket Challenge (we can all agree this fad is officially dead now) earlier this month, perhaps it was also in preparation for the sweltering humidity and intense passion of Carmen?

My review of the Ellen Kent take on Carmen has stated my dislike for the opera. But who am I to deny its fame? It remains as one of the most popular and performed operas in history. WNO's acclaimed production back in 1997 has been a staple staging ever since. 

The programme again gives a tight plot summary:

"Carmen, a gypsy, is arrested for attacking another women at the tobacco factory where they both work. She escapes with the help of Don José, a soldier who is guarding her. He is punished by a prison sentence, during which Carmen attracts the attention of the bullfighter, Escamillo. On his release, José lets Carmen persuade him to desert from the army and to join her and a band of smugglers. Their relationship soon founders. Micaëla, a girl from José's home village, convinces him to go with her for a last visit to his dying mother. Carmen goes to the bullfight to watch her new lover, Escamillo. In a jealous rage, José confronts and kills her." 

Taking the story by Prosper Mérimée (Puccini's Manon Lescaut is also based on a book of his), this production is sparse with the backdrops as murky paintwork inspired by Goya. Here all things are very traditional and certainly no scoffing at the designers and director. It was clear a new audience to opera was with us, on this opening night of the revival. Carmen always brings them in, though whether they dip their toe in the ocean of other great operatic works is unclear. In other words, they really should! 

Our gypsy heartbreaker is Alessandra Volpe. She oozes every fibre of Carmen, making a sultry, part-wild, man-eater. Her bull-like head butts to José's chest in the last act prove her animalistic nature. Peter Wedd remained the fiercely jealous and passionate lover, at first not giving a hoot over her, latter succumbing to madness and murder over Carmen. Jessica Muirhead as Micaëla has been a prim and pleasant presence, her aria in the third act getting much applause and some ovation at the curtain call. 

The bullfighter Escamillo, was a marvellous force (though perhaps not in stature) in Kotas Smoriginas. The role is filled with bravado and some arrogance and he keep the momentum in his baritone. The young choir of boys had very clear French. The chorus and orchestra were resplendent as always. 

A safe bet for opera virgins. A great evening for most, yet annoyance fuel for others.

Rating: 6/10

Welsh National Opera's Liberty or Death! season continues at the Wales Millennium Centre with a further performance of William Tell on Saturday 4th October 2014. 

Also in the season is Rossini's Moses In Egypt on Friday 3rd October and Sunday 5th October. Bizet's Carmen is on Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th September and Thursday 2nd October 2014. 

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