There’s a warm welcoming round of applause in the theatre.
This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour was invited to review Carmen by Birmingham Hippodrome.
The conductor appears and another round of applause occurs.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
An overture. I suddenly realise I recognise nearly all of the music of Carmen in the first overture. I feel casually smug about this. What I don’t realise is this is the first of FOUR overtures! Four!
Please note: this production contains violence and some footage of bullfighting.
WNO – Carmen at
Directed by Jo Davies, conducted by Tomáš Hanus, opera by Georges Bizet
This is an Opera in four acts, sung and spoken in French with English surtitles. The first two acts last around 90 minutes and then after a 25-minute break the second two acts last around an hour.
Central America, 1970s: Micaëla (Anita Watson) has come from a small town with a letter for José (Dimitri Pittas). The letter is from José’s mother asking him to return home. José is a soldier and after sending Micaëla away, he breaks up a fight between two women, one of whom is Carmen (Virginie Verrez). José starts to feel pangs of lust. Sometime later Carmen becomes infatuated with a bullfighter Escamillo (Phillip Rhodes) in a bar. Their romantic situation starts to become as dangerous for them as their political climate.
This is a huge production with a three-storey set which looks like concrete housing built in the 1960s and throughout there is lots to look at, from reading the surtitles to watching the main performers to seeing the background cast as ladies of the night and soldiers.
Virginie Verrez is fantastic as Carmen, strong, vulnerable and with a huge powerful voice. She is more than a match for Dimitri Pittas‘ José who develops a dangerous blind love for her. Stealing every scene he is in is Phillip Rhodes as the bullfighter. His celebrity status in the community causes tension and admiration all around.
As I’ve said right at the start, I discovered that I knew quite a bit of the music that makes Carmen such a well known and accessible opera and there were times where I forgot it was being sung in another language.
While I was quite interested in seeing Rigoletto which is at Birmingham Hippodrome on 6th and 9th November or The Cunning Little Vixen which is on 7th November. I knew this would be a fantastic choice. I wasn’t wrong!
While the production is jumping several thousand miles and nearly 100 years from its original setting and time, it really brings out the depth and quality of the original story to see it showcased in this manner.
Beautifully staged with stunning voices to match Carmen is at Birmingham Hippodrome on 8th November and returns 7th May 2020. Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/wno-carmen
Discover more about Welsh National Opera (WNO) here: wno.org.uk
This isn’t a sponsored post.
When not writing about theatre for BrumHour, or producing Interval Theatre for Brum Radio (Tuesdays 3pm) brumradio.com/intervaltheatre,
Dave Massey can be found eating crisps and tweeting about Birmingham for #BrumHour.