THE LOWRY, SALFORD M50 3AZ – 10 NOVEMBER 2021
REVIEWED BY ANGELOS SPANTIDEAS
Carmen, is an exciting opera that unlike other operas of its age is more realistic and takes a more mundane take on love and departs from rigid or overly romantic depictions of love and desire, fermenting the story in raw lust and mischief. Opera North’s take on Carmen puts the heroine in the middle of the spotlight, making her an irresistible character who does not shy away in the presence of the main male characters, Don José and Escamillo, who are both overflowing with classic masculine energy. While caring for her daughter, Carmen navigates working as an exotic dancer toying with the men’s desires and separating herself from the idea of a tame woman.
The story unfolds in an ever changing set that is fascinating and unravels in many layers with every inch of the stage very carefully and in great detail designed. Crystal E. Williams is brilliantly casted for the role of Carmen, from the moment she enters the stage on a swing wearing a pink satin leotard, to her scheming and plotting, she is oozing with sexyness and cunningness and every second she is on stage she is impossible to look away from. Her initial love interest Don José, played by Erin Caves, is easy to manipulate and mold to her liking with him ending up being madly and vehemently in love with her. Escamillo, played by Phillip Rhodes, is the typical flirtatious man who charms the audiences and Carmen but fails to protect her from her choices and ultimately herself.
Behaviours of male characters depict an older time especially when it comes to claiming the women, which is shown blatantly when Micaela enters the stage, where even though obviously pregnant she is approached crudely by the soldiers. Similar images take place many times on stage, which is showing an uncomfortable truth of what was acceptable at the time when the opera was written. Nevertheless, Carmen, and other female characters, are depicted as strong women who can stand their own ground, are assertive and make their decisions based on their own ambitions and motivations.
Although the show is very entertaining throughout, there are times when scenes are not executed in the most elegant manner. The use of cocaine creates a bit of an awkward frenzy with the actors almost choking themselves in it. Furthermore dance scenes seem to be disjointed and do not blend well with the rest of the story while at times it feels like the connections between characters are feeble.
Overall, giving a stunning performance, the cast does not miss a single opportunity to showcase their vocal precision with each song being beautifully accompanied by an exceptional orchestra. Although there are moments when the depiction of the story falls short, Carmen invites audiences to an escape filled with energetic and engaging performances, lively scenery and an all over captivating venture on this beloved opera.