Eden Court – Empire Theatre
27 Oct 2015
Scottish Opera and director Benjamin Davis have brought about a revival of the 1999 co production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser which is sung in French and has English Super titles Even though Habanera is one of my favourite opera songs, I’ve never actually been to the Opera, so I was quite excited and unsure what to expect. Set in Seville, the story is about a fiery, free spirited gypsy woman, Carmen (Justina Gringyte) who works in a cigarette factory, and quite amusingly in the first act everyone is puffing away, even a group of cheeky children as they mimic the soldiers marching and flicking their butts.
All the soldiers and male characters vie for Carmen’s attention, but she falls for Don Jose (Noah Stewart), possibly because he is the only one who pays her no attention. Even he cannot resist her charms and foregoes his mothers wish for him to marry his childhood sweetheart Micaëla (Nadine Livingston) and deserts the army to follow her and her smuggler friends into the hills. However with his jealousy and rages and her autonomous flirting nature , this passionate affair seems ill fated from the start. When Don Jose heads back to his village with Micaëla to see his dying mother, Carmen falls in love with the charismatic Escamillio the Toreador (Roland Wood) and the story comes to a dramatic end when Don Jose catches up with her at the bullfighting ring.
Except for the final act, this production had quite a paired back set, with muted colours and abstract backdrops, so it is left to Bizet’s music to give a sense of the rich colours of Spain. I’m not sure if the Super titles where a help or a hindrance, I often found my attention diverted from the stage to read the text, but they helped to explain the narrative. Justina Gringyte plays the sultry seductress well and has an amazing voice which seemed to grow in confidence throughout. Noah Stewart was equally impressive in voice, but sometimes lacking in passion during the more dramatic scenes. Nadine Livingston as the innocent Micaëla had a lovely tone to her voice and some of the choruses, especially at the bullfight were simply fantastic. David Parry gave great direction to the orchestra who played seamlessly for the whole performance. For me this was perfect introduction to the Opera, and a very enjoyable experience.
Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne