Friday, 28 November 2014

26 November 2014 WNO Touring Production of Carmen (Mayflower Theatre, Southampton) ***

Carmen has everything going for it. Great tunes, great locations, sexy sultry gypsy women, bull fighters, etc, etc. You would think it would be difficult to mess it up; yet we have seen more downright bad productions of this opera than any other. Here’s what I think the marketing gurus at WNO have come up with. Tour three operas, one edgy one, one new production, and then, to put bums on seats and help pay for the other two, revive one potboiler from the repertory. This was a  1997 production hastily put together with a grey box for a set (something of a WNO trade mark), second rank singers, ‘stand and deliver’ staging of musical numbers and ‘moody’ lighting (i.e most of the action takes place in near darkness). Even the conductor was a repetiteur from the music department. There was an almost palpable air of “let’s get through this as quickly as possible and then we can all go home” And yes, there was a bum on every seat and thanks to the sheer genius of Bizet’s music presumably most went home satisfied. We saw a student production of Carmen a few months ago. I have to say, that it was a far more rewarding experience than WNO on tour.

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