OPERA / Carmen - Travelling Opera, Theatre Royal, Bath

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The Independent Culture
Peter Knapp's skills as a producer have worked well with comedy over a number of years, revitalising the humour of works often deadened by tradition. Carmen, which inhabits a world of danger, near hysteria and warm, immediate emotion, does not seem so easily susceptible to the Knapp treatment. The 'Toreador' song works well as a concerted scene and the start of Act 3 has real atmosphere, much aided by Clare Young's intelligent, adaptable set. Much of the rest hovers uneasily between sitcom and melodrama. Characters emerge only partially and none is helped by the need to preserve a fake Spanish accent. Knapp's snapshot adaptation, so successful elsewhere, creates a breathlessness and lack of pace; the denouement loses most of its force as a result. At the start of a long run, the hope must be that many features will tighten up. Prime candidates are dancing, diction - with the honourable exceptions of Richard Morton's Don Jose and Leah-Marian Jones's splendidly sultry Carmen - and co-ordination with the pit; Richard Balcombe might also try to persuade his band to play down a little for the sake of clarity. First nights are often a problem and on this occasion everyone seemed to be trying a little too hard. As the tour proceeds, perhaps greater relaxation will allow a more complete image of Carmen to emerge.

Theatre Royal, to Sat 19 Sept (0225 448844) and on tour

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