OPERA / Carmen / National Youth Opera - Sadler's Wells, London WC1

Click to follow
British Youth Opera's production has wit, relish, plus a thoroughly adult emphasis on the darker aspects of the tragedy of Carmen. By setting each of the four acts in flashback from the condemned man's cell, director Patrick Libby starts off from a premise of oppression. A pair of metal gates alternate as entrance to prison, cigarette factory and bullring; they are kept almost permanently locked by Zuniga's men.

Chiefly, however, the incarceration is within Don Jose's mind. Ya Lin Zhang, the powerful tenor, played this part as a 19th-century Wozzeck: a misfit soldier, tormented by his inner and outer worlds, more obsessed with his own tendency to self-destruct than the obvious charms of Helen Lothian's Carmen. No surprise she turns, in the end, from this psychotic corporal to Howard Quilla Croft's debonair Escamillo, whose spectacular torchlit arrival in Act 2 was parodied by a wonderfully hammed-up Lillas Pastia.

French diction - sung and spoken - was good throughout; the orchestra played solidly and euphoniously. Best voice on Tuesday evening was Diane Charlesworth, plain yet enchanting as Micaela.

Comments