Brighton Fringe 2012
A new version of this wonderful opera given a lively production in English.
The production of Bizet’s Carmen by Impact Opera at the Old Market, Hove, on Monday, May 21st was a very mixed bag of good intentions, excellent production numbers and uneven playing.
Beforehand and in the programme notes, Peter Knapp (who not only wrote the libretto for this version, and directed and produced and was musical director,) claimed that by shortening the opera, concentrating on essentials and playing in English with a reduced cast, he would make the story clear and the whole thing accessible to a wider audience. He then handicapped himself by having the entire cast playing with broad Spanish accents, and having an orchestra of young players who, though they had some effecti vely tender or dramatic moments, often drowned out the words of the soft passages in the arias, particularly for Carmen herself. This was not helped by the orchestra being placed on the stage by the side of the singers . The result was that often the lyrics were not at all clear, and it was often hard to know what the singers were supposed to be singing about or even what language they were singing in.
The highlights of this production almost made up for these problems. The set was very effective, with the gloomy prison initially which converted with the addition by members of the ensemble of a few drapes into the square, the inn and the gypsy camp, and later the bullring. The costumes were excellent too, the girls’ dresses moved well in the dance sequences which were perhaps the highlight of the production. The choreographer had devised lovely stage pictures, allowing the dancers to look like gypsies dancing spontaneously rather than “performing”. All the ensemble movement and singing was splendid vibrant and free flowing and the fights fast and exciting, Only the final scene needed the chorus to be more separated from the two principals in the dramatic exchange – either they needed to be behind the set, or scattered high on the structure – having them in a line onstage distracted from the action giving it no hope of realism.
Micaela, played by Amaia Azcona Cidoz was the very picture of innocent goodness, and her beautiful soprano rang out pure and clear. Maran Gesla sang the toreador with relish, though as with most of the men, could have done with a tan makeup to make him a convincing Spaniard. The smaller parts were universally well sung and acted. Handsome Daniel Hoadley appeared well cast for Don Jose, with a pleasant, clearly enunciated tenor , but oh dear, he so lacked any passion it was impossible to believe he would do anything more exciting than sing in a choir. His character has to, fall in love so instantly and desperately he breaks orders and in jealousy attacks an officer,throws up his career and his old sweetheart and family and eventually turn into a killer – he needed to be able to show yearning, sexuality, hatred and intense jealousy. Fortunately Carmen herself (Arnie Clapson) had enough passion for two, with her strong soaring high notes and a sweet middle register. She danced, moved and acted with grace and a real fire in her belly. This is an actress singer to watch!
This young company gives us much to enjoy