John Bell’s Carmen is being reprised at the Opera House in its Cuban setting, with crumbling colourful architecture and gaudy costumes, and a roadside food stall providing the backdrop to this tragic tale of a spirited gypsy woman who comes to an untimely death at the hands of a jilted lover.
Why the Cuban setting? It was close enough to Spanish culture to capture the essence of the work but of course, the dance “habanera” originated in Havana.
Unlike directing plays, directing opera requires close collaboration with the conductor, the choir master, the choreographer, and the children’s chorus master, and others, with the director and conductor as co-equals, with the director reminding the conductor that this is a dramatic piece and not a concert.
This collaboration is intensified by the short rehearsal time as overseas artists often arrive only a day or so before opening night.
Israeli born mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham shares the role of Carmen with Sian Pendry, while tenors Marcelo Puente from Argentina and Otar Jorjikia from Georgia share the role of Don Jose.
Conducting will be shared by Carlo Goldstein (until Feb 27) and Tahu Matheson (from March 2).
As Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini says, “Carmen is a must see opera, even if you’ve never set foot in an opera house. If you’re new to opera, this production is the perfect first show – the work itself is, of course brilliant, the production values are second-to-none and with the stellar Australian and international cast we have assembled, it’s an opera that is set to impress.”
Having seen the original production, all I can say to this is “Ole!”
Feb 10-Mar 23. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $46-$348+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au
By Irina Dunn.