This Opera Is For You!
Carmen is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, based on an original story by Prosper Merimee, first performed in 1875. It is written in the genre of opéra comique, with musical numbers separated by dialogue, and it shocked its early audiences with its breaking of social conventions. Nowadays it is one of the most popular, and frequently-performed, operas in the classical canon. And, of course, it features two very famous arias – the Habanera, and the Toreador Song.
It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous torero Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial at the time.
So – what have White Horse Opera done with this absolute classic of an opera? First up they’ve kept it simple. There are just four backdrops to represent the four locations of the four acts, the costumes are modern and unfussy, and there are very few props. This allows the music, the singing and the acting to speak for itself. It’s also sung in English to keep it very accessible. Even the orchestra is a stripped-back unit of only seven musicians + conductor.
Stand-out performances came from all the leads – there are no weak links here – Paula Boyagis as Carmen, Phillip Borge as Don Jose, Jon Paget as Escamillo, Barbara Gompels as Micaela, Brian Brooks as Zuniga and Graham Billing as Morales. But the cast has strength in depth, with some fine support work from Jess Phillips, Bryony Cox, Lisa House, Stephen Grimshaw and Robin Lane. The only wooden thing on the stage (making a key contribution to Act 2) was one of the benches from The Vaults!
I enjoyed the production a lot. It had pace, passion and a great freshness. Why wouldn’t you? – the story involves love, smuggling, jealousy, seduction, and death! Definitely worth the trip out to Lavington School.
Ticket sales have been strong, but there are still some tickets left for the three performance – tonight (Wednesday 30th Oct), Friday 1st November and Saturday 2nd November. NOTE – there is NO performance on Thursday night.
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