Saturday, 22 September 2018

Reviews

PRODUCER Ellen Kent is renowned for bringing the Las Vegas touch to opera and ballet, and this production just oozed

PRODUCER Ellen Kent is renowned for bringing the Las Vegas touch to opera and ballet, and this production just oozed flamboyance and razzmatazz.

The opening scene had all the trappings of a sultry Sevillian plaza — a running fountain, festoons of flowers, girls in mantillas and a donkey. Yes, you read it right — a real live donkey, eliciting lots of oohs and aahs from the audience as it was led on. The only trouble was, like all real live donkeys, it had a stubborn streak and decided it didn’t want to leave the stage on cue. But after a few tugs, the cast dealt with this admirably — nothing that a few carrots couldn’t sort out.

Later, we were treated to the sight of Caspian, a white Andalucian stallion, rearing up on his hind legs in front of the bullring before showing off some impressive dressage footwork.

This was an out-and-out traditional Carmen. Sung in the original French, with English surtitles, the sets seemed to be lifted straight from a Goya painting, the gypsy costumes bright and colourful, and the choreography offering more than a nod to flamenco influences.

It’s almost unbelievable that Bizet’s masterpiece — which has brought us some of the best-loved arias in the world such as the Habanera and the Toreador song — flopped on its début in 1894. The composer died three months afterwards, at the age of 36, his spirit withered by critics who dubbed his work immoral.

The raven-headed beauty Nadezdha Stoianova made a provocative, sexy Carmen and Sorin Lupu as Don José sang his most romantic aria, La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée, with searing passion. Ellen Kent prides herself on bringing accessible opera to the masses, and this show was testament to her success.

Carmen by Bizet

New Theatre, Oxford

Friday, February 15

Lesley Potter

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