Opera review: Carmen

3 Mar

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The simplicity of the stage setting and costume design used by Welsh National Opera in the new version of the famous opera Carmen has allowed the personality of the characters sparkle. Carmen has been one of the most performed operas despite the cold reception at the launch in 1875. Written by Georges Bizet, it is about a free-spirit Spanish gipsy woman who has many admirers. Her sense of freedom has taken her from one lover to another. She makes a soldier falls in love with her. She then dumps him because she realizes that he is not her match, and fall for another man. The broken-hearted Don Jose stalks Carmen and begs for her return. After she repeatedly refuses, he kills her.

The new adaptation, directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, integrates singing and dialogue resulting in theatrical feeling. The cast is strong as a whole, except the rather disorganized children’s singing. Sara Fulgoni as Carmen and Rafael Rojas as Don Jose played their turf cards. Adding to her rich voice, Ms. Fulgoni uses her body language to depict the sensuality and pride of a beautiful gipsy. Her performance is captivating and she naturally attracts the attention. Mr Rojas’ acting, however, sometimes falls flat. But once he sings, he manages to portray Don Jose’s feeling beautifully.

The act is well supported by the orchestra, which helps create the climaxes. During dialogues, the music stops; yet the suspension created earlier together with the strong presence of the actors manage to overcome the quietness. Lightings are smartly used to enhance the dramatic effect of the scenes. During act 3, lighting creates the illusion of dawn and the movement of people across the mountains. The bareness of the stage allows the spectators’ focus to fall on the characters. This is a challenge as well as chance for the actors to show their capability.

Making it even better, the costumes are brilliant. In the first three acts, the earth-tone colours costumes, blended with the lighting effect and the stage’s design, naturally lead the viewers to imagine a dusty poor rural area in their head.

It is definitely a show worth seeing. The next performance of “Carmen” is on 2nd March 2007 at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is sung in French with English & Welsh subtitles.

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