Carmen @ The Mayflower, Southampton
Our own opera fan Emma van Kooperen checks out the big-hitter from Welsh National Opera’s current Liberty Or Death! Tour. Read on for her thoughts…
From the offset WNO’s latest revival of Carmen feels somewhat lacklustre. The initial crowd scenes feel too staged, too calm and the chorus, whilst vocally strong, are far too well behaved in the initial scenes. Sadly this is something which runs throughout the piece.
Kristin Chávez’s Carmen falls short of the sensuality required to drive the narrative forward. There is a hint of darkness just below the surface but it never quite comes through. It is not until the fourth act, during ‘C’est toi! C’est moi’, that any true emotion is revealed. Despite this, and the odd waver at the cadences, Chavez is vocally up to the challenge of Carmen, but does not entirely deliver emotionally. Likewise Gwyn Hughes Jones’ Don José is vocally strong but it was not until the final moments that you truly believed he was capable of killing the woman who had caused his downfall and left him.
As the toreador Escamillo, Kostas Smorignas captivates with an almost endearing arrogance. Emma Carrington and Samantha Hay as Mercedes and Frasquita contrast beautifully with each other vocally but it is Jessica Muirhead as Micaёla who provides the standout performance. Her rendition of ‘Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante’ was the highlight for me.
The WNO orchestra, led by James Southall, excelled in bringing Bizet’s score to life and a special mention does out to the children’s chorus who were, at times more engaging than the adult chorus.
Despite its shortcomings the revival of Carmen is enjoyable, albeit a little dated.