Every opera director has to have their crack at Carmen, but Sally Potter – better known as a film director – claims hers will raise eyebrows. Having immersed herself in bullfights, and having researched Bizet's diaries plus the views of Freud and Nietzsche, she believes her take will be radical in the exact sense of the word.
"I've watched every production I could get my hands on, and then tried to forget them – I've tried to disinvest myself of every encrusted cliché." Like what? "Like the idea of buxom wenches in a sunny square in Seville, being mock Spanish even though they are singing in French. Bizet himself never went to Spain, so it was an imaginary landscape for him, and his concept was of something dangerous."
It all turns on what she calls the story's "secret emotional geometry". Meaning? "At the heart of the piece is a couple, Carmen and Don José, who themselves are like two sides of one being. He is pulled to a simpler past with social constraints, but wants to be free of it; Carmen is struggling for another kind of freedom – to choose her own life, and not be constrained by any law.
"She's also the only character who faces up to the fact that death exists. It's a chamber piece about duality, with a Greek chorus reflecting the way we are all caught between the human and the divine – another duality. It's all push-pull."
The most promising thing is the presence of Alice Coote in the title role, but, as Potter's blog reveals, this fiery mezzo has recently had a throat infection. How worried is Potter? "We've bonded," she says firmly. "Even if I have to carry her in on my back, she'll be there." Fingers crossed...
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