Monday, 21 October 2013

Review of Garden Opera Company's Carmen - Saturday 19 October

Adrienne Perry, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

Last night the Hawthorne Theatre welcomed The Garden Opera Company who performed the opera Carmen by Bizet.

This production was set in 1921 in a speak easy in New York City. The set was simple in design a compact backdrop of a run down bar called Remys. I was a little concerned that the chamber ensemble were perched so close to the main set that they would cause a distraction and for me this was the case, in saying that what amazing musicians they were.

When the opera began there was quite a lot of 'business' faffing about with drinks,tables windows etc i just wanted them to get on with it...and then it began. The audience was whisked away to this run down speak easy run by Remy and his sisters Frasquite and Carmen. They are trying to scrape a living whilst the police chief Zuniga, played by Mark Saberton is extorting money from them running a protection racket. He is obsessed with Carmen. Whilst he gave a convincing performance as a bullish police chief during his speaking parts he had an English accent which didn't for me quite fit in with 1920s New York.

Then we meet Carmen played by Maria Brown. What a talented singer and her voice was enchanting and I was immediately captivated. Carmen is arrested for trying to steal from Micaela and is arrested. She sets out to seduce new recruit Don Jose so she can escape. She succeeds and Jose is left to face the music. His life then spirals out of control due to his love and infatuation with Carmen he murders Escamillo (Adam Green who was excellent) because he steals Carmens heart. Finally he loses his mind and kills Carmen in a jealous rage.

This all sounds very dramatic individually they gave great performances but I found nothing convincing about their chemistry together on stage. I cannot give the actor who played Don Jose a named credit as it was omitted from the programme I would like to say he had an amazing voice but I could not believe he was in love with Carmen.

I also felt that Carmens costume was all wrong. She was in my mind to be a sexy lady who used her sexuality to get what she wanted. Men were a means to an end. She needed to stand out be different from everyone else on stage but it looked like she was wearing a nighty and it was an insipid yellow colour and she tended to blend in. I would have loved to see her in a more dramatic costume perhaps red she needed to stand out.

The two other members of the company were Remendo played by Alex Anderson Hall and Aoife O'Sullivan who played Frasquite and Micaela both were very good in their supporting roles.

I do think the company did an amazing job. I have never seen a full opera performed before mostly because I thought I wouldn't understand it. This adaptation was translated into English and was easily accessible even to the uninitiated. Would I see an opera by this company again you bet!!

One final thought don't be scared off by opera embrace it and enjoy it. Should there be another at the Hawthorne Theatre give it a go because I certainly will.

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