Director John Bell’s vibrant production of Bizet’s opera features gypsy girls and bull-fighting boys in eye-popping colours.
There are smugglers in suits, parades and punches, lust and loathing aplenty.
“Carmen is almost the perfect opera because there’s never a dull moment,” says John Bell. “The story is very tight, every piece of music is a winner and the characters are extremely convincing. Look at the two protagonists. How self-destructive can two people be? They’re like George and Martha in [Who’s Afraid of] Virginia Woolf. This relationship is devouring them. It’s a dance of death.”
Rather than set the story in Bizet’s Seville, Bell and designer Michael Scott-Mitchell created a frame more like modern day Havana, Cuba.
“We wanted a fresh look for the story, something more contemporary, a modern world of gangsters and corrupt military where the gangsters and the army and prostitutes intermingle very readily and very easily,” Bell says.
“You always want to scrape off the accretions of tradition and convention that often cling to classic opera that people come to think is the real thing. You want to get into the drama of the opera itself and show people something as fresh and exciting as it was when it was first performed.”
Paolo Carignani conducts Rinat Shaham as opera’s favourite femme fatale, with Argentine tenor Marcelo Puente as Don José and Michael Honeyman as Escamillo.