Carmen, Royal Albert Hall, London
Friday 22 February 2013
Everyone loves Carmen, but no one ever quite brings it off because its delicate balance between public and private, large-scale action and intimate drama, is so tricky.
Francesca Zambello’s production at Covent Garden is such a merry riot of detail that the eye is drawn in every direction at once. Calixto Bieito’s version at the Coliseum has a searing denouement, but along the way it gets terribly bogged down in pseudo-philosophical sub-texts. Meanwhile David Freeman’s Royal Albert Hall production is periodically brought out for an airing, and the contrast this makes with the aforementioned shows could not be more stark.
Freeman and his designer David Roger trade on the hall’s huge central space by making a gently-ramped platform snake through the arena, and their use of this device during the overture works beautifully.
A platoon of soldiers marches silently on, then the stage gradually fills with figures: boys playing at bull-fighting, Gypsy girls working out a dance routine, a flower seller, couples decorously promenading in their Sunday best: a whole world is established through dashes of vivid colour.
The drama is energetically sprung between Don Jose (Noah Stewart), Zuniga (Benjamin Cahn), and Micaela (Elizabeth Atherton) before the factory girls come out led by Carmen (Rachael Lloyd), but it’s vitiated by a total disconnect between sound and vision. This is because, thanks to the non-directional amplification, one often can’t work out who is singing, and also because the lighting is not used to draw the eye where it needs to focus. And though the show is sung in English, the diction is very hit-and-miss: anyone new to the opera would need surtitles to know what’s going on.
On the plus side, Lloyd gives us a thoroughly convincing and well-sung Carmen, while Stewart – a young black tenor from Harlem with a radiantly open sound – is a graceful Don Jose: when he later makes an unamplified re-entry through the stalls – before merging once more with the general sonic soup – one realises his vocal potential. But the other solo roles are run-of-the-mill, and the show as a whole is woefully patchy.
There’s some nice spectacle, but it comes at the expense of the drama: one has no sense of any relationship between the protagonists, and it’s just one more little surprise when Jose whips a knife out of his pocket.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
The Great British Bake Off, series 6, preview: The most popular show on television is back
National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 winners in pictures
US bookshop offers Go Set A Watchman refunds over false marketing as 'nice summer novel'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar enter Forbes' highest paid actors list for first time
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke