For several years now, Ellen Kent’s productions have been making opera accessible to the masses by touring her lavish, stylish, and beautifully traditional productions around the UK’s theatres, to critical acclaim. Her production of Bizet’s Carmen comes to Glasgow for one night only. Opera International is presently touring the UK and Ireland, visiting places that may not get an opportunity to see opera; the production uses singers and orchestras from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, under Ellen’s direction. Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most popular operas ever written. Judging from the packed Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, it would seem that it’s as popular as ever.
An award-winning opera producer with over 20 years of experience in the business., Ellen Kent’s repertoire has included sell-out performances at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as unforgettable shows at Leeds Castle, Biettedine Festival in Lebanon, and Dafna Hall in Qatar.
Carmen is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalised its first audiences. Carmen tells a story of a gypsy girl whose love and passion switch from one man to another with tragic consequences; it is one of the world’s most famous operas, comprising the genres’s most familiar and loved tunes. A Spanish story of obsessive love, treachery, passion, jealousy, and betrayal, Don José, a naive young soldier is seduced by Carmen, leaving behind his childhood sweetheart and deserting his military duties.
This production is accessible and highly entertaining, ensuring that even an opera novice can hugely enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed. The story is easy to follow and the talented ensemble enchants the audience with easiness. There are surtitles in English, enabling the audience to follow the story without any trouble. The accessibility of Carmen is probably one of its greatest joys; this production is a perfect opportunity to introduce opera newbies to this musical form. The chorus included twenty performers (chorus master Victor Donos) and were incredible, with clear diction and great acting skills.
Accompanied by a live orchestra, the production features Bizet’s unforgettable melodies including ‘The Toreador’s Song’, Carmen’s enticing ‘Habanera’, and Don José’s lyrical ‘Flower Song’ in a setting evoking the stunning architecture of Seville and its main square with Roman and Moorish influences. Bizet’s music is touching and haunting; a truly special package that will stay with you long after you finish the show. The songs are performed incredibly by the Chisinau National Opera & Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sung in French, with English surtitles.
With thanks from Artmag to Joanna Zuchowska for this review.