Arguably one of the most popular operas in any repertoire, Bizet’s Carmen is an easy pleaser due to its hit after hit collection of familiar tunes and its easy to follow storyline. But, because of this, in the wrong hands it can suffer the banality of cliches and same ol’ same ol’ design. Not this production.
John Bell’s return staging of Carmen feels every bit as fresh and exciting as when it first debuted.
The story of a feisty, rebellious, fatally attractive cigarette-factory girl who immediately usurps the heart of any man who ventures too close, is sexy, energetic and passionate. Bell has relocated the action from Seville in the late 1800s to somewhere that resembles Cuba in a modern time frame that embodies 1920s gangster, 1940s sass, and 1950s colour and youthful vitality.
The costumes are vivid and elegant, while also giving a sense of street chic. These are contrasted against a stark, colourless set consisting of run-down, concrete buildings.
There are some wonderful dance sequences, including some impressive displays by a troupe of young kids. All the leads are exceptional and each receives resounding applause after their respective limelight arias.
If you love opera you will love this production, and if you don’t or are not sure if you do, this will convert you.
Until Mar 26. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $40-$369+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.