Theatre in Wales

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HEIGHTS OF SINGING AND PASSION

Carmen

Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , September-21-19
Carmen by Welsh National Opera With her tight jeans and leather jacket French mezzo-soprano, Virginie Verrez is clearly a Carmen for the twenty first century. Her singing is both compelling and beautiful. Like all the members of this cast she gives us the highest degree of artistic excellence but at the same time her voice echoes the passion inside her from the very start.

We all get off to a great start. WNO’s musical director, Tomáš Hanus leads the fine playing of the orchestra in such a spirited overture that we all know that we are in for a great time. Even the dull greys in award-winning designer, Leslie Travers fails to dampen our spirits.

They certainly don’t dampen the spirits of the soldiers waiting excitedly for the cigarette factory girls to take their break. The male section of the WNO’s world beating chorus give us the perfect sound of expectant tensions.

Micaëla arrives looking for Don José. She is a beautifully mannered young lady with a beautiful soprano with which Anita Watson perfectly reflects her role. She has left by the time the guard changes bringing Don José to the stage. Dimitri Pittas soon captivates us with his strong, warm tenor voice and his confident masculinity.

Soon the feisty Carmen appears: her ‘Habanara’ – Love is like a rebellious bird, provokes the guardsmen. They all want her but she throws a flower at Don José but he is not interested. It emerges that she has attacked another woman with a knife. She is arrested and tied up but José loosens the knots and she escapes. José is arrested for dereliction of duty.

Micaëla has brought José a letter from her mother, she reads it to him it is telling him to marry Micaëla. Now free he agrees but Carmen has other ideas!

Later at Lillas Pastia’s Tavern the crowd meet Toreador, Escamillo. Phillip Rhodes gives us a fine robust and captivating ‘Toreador’ song. He goes away as the smugglers arrive with their contraband, guns. They want Carmen to help them he tries to draw José into it with her seductive "Je vais danser en votre honneur ... La la la.” But the call of the bugle is too strong for José.

When he hears his mother is dying he resolves to return home but he is stopped by learning that Escamillo has now become very ‘interested’ in Carmen. The men fight, ("Je suis Escamillo, toréro de Grenade"),

The quality of the singing with its strong animation continues the excitement and the passion. As the story draws to a close José pleads for Carmen to return to him but she throws the ring he has given her, she now despises him.

Defeated, engulfed in a saddened passion, José kills Carmen, he kneels over her body and sings "Ah! Carmen! ma Carmen adorée!’ still retaining that wonderful quality of voice with a tearing internal passion. As the crowd exits the arena, José confesses to killing Carmen.

With the wonderful contrast between the beauty of the singing and the passion in its content all our expectations were fulfilled.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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