James Ellis reviews Carmen, Welsh National Opera, Wales Millennium Centre

March 8, 2020 by
Carmen returned to the WMC much quicker than expected. WNO’s recent production has Latin American revolution vibes circa 1970s, originally directed by Jo Davies, this revival by Oliver Lamford. Little has changed in this reappearance, though the UK premier of Julia Mintzer playing Carmen was exciting. She makes the role, with swagger and lustful intent. Her Habanera more subtle then sexy, though the spice of the part is always present.
My heart goes out to Peter Auty, as Don José vocals seemed in need of repair. An aria in the second act was not wonderful and his voice not really recovering for the heightened finale either. Escamilio here is Giorgio Caoduro, not quite as ravishing as the last venture, but getting on well with the role. I feel his cry of “Carmen!” at the finale could have done with work, without becoming too over the top. Elin Pritchard sang Micaëla, a noble role with a sublime third act aria I’m always glad to return to (I’ve had my fill of the famous bits of music). You usually feel for her, but this is missing from the fourth act, never able to obtain a full character arch.
The set by Leslie Travers might be more familiar this time round, though I feel the time and setting has every drop wrung out of it in this staging. We still get the bull fights, with an added offering of child soldiers, potential death by petrol/matches along with the gaudy clothes and grimy block of flats of the apparent new setting.
The chorus and orchestra (maestro Harry Ogg playing with urgency) have performed this opera countless times. It lives in their blood stream, they master every moment of Spanish delights, along with some of Bizet’s more stimulating musical phrases.
Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro and Les vêpres siciliennes. ar enow touring.
Photo Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

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