Carmen – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Carmen – Review
Bradford Alhambra, April 2016
by Sandra Callard
Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen was an unmitigated failure at its premiere in Paris in 1875. Bizet died three months later, unaware that his final work would become one of the most popular and successful operas in the world.
This latest reworking by director/producer Ellen Kent is showing at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. It is certainly one of the most innovative performances of the opera I have seen. Kent is an avid supporter of animal welfare, and includes animals such as horses, donkeys and dogs in all her productions of opera and ballet.
This Carmen contains a beautiful Andalucian white stallion, originally bred for the bull ring and a gentle donkey from a local rescue centre. Both animals had the audience sighing. Lovely as these animals are, they add nothing to the opera. Instead they become a distraction. The donkey is possibly quite at home in the village square, but the glorious Andalucian horse is so large on the stage, and performs a catalogue of such clever manoeuvres that I thought I had strayed into a production of the Spanish Riding School.
The story of love, passion and jealousy is so well known it needs no retelling. The music of Bizet is as stirring and foot-tapping as ever. The eponymous anti-heroine is sung by Liza Kadelnik, who has a wonderful mezzo soprano voice. It is clear, compelling and practically faultless. She is beautiful to boot, but her acting is not of the same high standard as her singing. Carmen is a fiery and passionate woman, disdainful of the men who fall in love with her, but Kadelnik only does the disdainful bit. Sadly, she fails on the rest.
Don Jose is sung by Vitalii Liskovetskiy, a singer from Ukraine who possesses a particularly resonant and clear tenor voice. It is a pleasure to listen to him sing. He shows his obsessive love for Carmen. He demonstrates his indecision on whether he should stay with her or go to his dying mother. His love song to Carmen is particularly moving and beautifully sung.
I really like Maria Tonina who plays the erstwhile love of Don Jose. What a voice this girl has. Her beautiful soprano soars to the rafters with no apparent effort, and her performance is first class. I also really like Iurie Gisca as the toreador Escamillo. He has a good baritone, but he also has the authentic flamboyance and strutting pride of a great toreador.
This production of Carmen is a departure from the usual run of this great opera. It succeeds on some levels but fails on many others, notably the directing. The final death scene should be explosive, passionate and heart-breaking. Instead we have a pathetic stabbing with an obviously plastic knife. We have a Carmen who dies immediately as the curtain descends. There is no fear from her. No begging or attempt to avoid her fate. No emotion from Don Jose. This is such an anti-climax to a final scene we all know is coming, but are vicariously waiting to enjoy.
This is a brave attempt at a different Carmen. But I left feeling slightly cheated. Instead of being elated at the magnificent music and flamboyant characters, I crept away with a feeling that I had been somewhat short-changed.