Cockatoo ‘Carmen’, an ‘inept’ shocker of a present

“Carmen” on Cockatoo Island. Picture: Hamilton Lund

Opera / “Carmen” Opera Australia on Cockatoo Island, till December 18. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.

THIS “Carmen” was fairly presumably essentially the most inept manufacturing I’ve ever seen by Opera Australia.

Closely adorned with irrelevant intrusions, like bike stunt riders crossing in entrance of the viewers earlier than, and in the course of the efficiency, it was singular for its over-miked singing, perfunctory performing, visible distractions like fireworks and searchlights and repetitive, unimaginative choreography. Not even the large yachts crusing near the stage initially of the night time might make up for that.

There was even a mimed dumb present earlier than the opera started, an idea straight out of “Hamlet” however with no relevance.

And there was not a skerrick of tragedy.

Carmen Topciu as Carmen, shuffles the playing cards. Picture: Prudence Upton

Romanian soprano Carmen Topciu as Carmen, dressed up like a streetwalker, waved her palms round, shrugged her shoulders, smirked and gave sly glances to her associates to point out what she considered Don José, wiggling her hips and her torso in a gross travesty of seductiveness. Her Act I Habanera was a about as attractive as an previous corset.

Regardless of the phrases of the libretto by Halevy and Meilhac, which recommend that Carmen was a lover of freedom, what got here throughout was a nasty, cynical particular person who spent many of the night time manipulating different individuals to her personal ends. Even within the well-known Act III the place she shuffled the cardboard of loss of life, there was little sense of impending tragedy.

Italian tenor Roberto Aronica because the hapless Don José (he’ll share this position with Diego Torre) fared higher within the performing stakes. Though not an excellent bodily kind for the harmless José, he sang fantastically and at the very least tried to look as if he was smitten with Carmen.

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It’s onerous to think about {that a} manufacturing of “Carmen” can sideline Bizet’s enduringly well-liked music, however this one did.

José and Micaela. Picture: Prudence Upton

José’s Act I duet with Micaela, one of many excessive factors of the opera, was utterly wrecked by director Liesel Badorrek’s resolution to have most of forged wanting on like voyeurs, with Carmen over to stage proper mugging and snickering at Don José’s harmless encounter with the woman from his hometown.

And Micaela, sung powerfully by Danita Weatherstone, appeared in heavy make-up and an overdone costume utterly at odds along with her character.

There have been a number of events in the course of the operation which Badorrek selected to go away your complete forged on stage, not least proper on the finish in essentially the most tragic moments when Don José and Carmen face off outdoors the bullring. Usually the gang is inside watching the bullfight, however right here once more they grew to become voyeurs, presumably to provide the ultimate encounter a component of the bullfight.

Badorrek appeared to don’t know of focus, in order that the guard captain Zuniga (Richard Anderson) was at one stage left in full darkness far stage left on the very second when his reactions to Carmen have been essential.

Elsewhere, the director launched gratuitous indicators upstage to announce, as an illustration, that the toreador Escamillo had arrived—however his “Toreador Tune” advised us that too.

Worse was the directorial resolution to have an enormous signal flashing up behind the scene the place Don José dispatches Carmen (on this model strangling her fairly than the standard stabbing), alerting us that we have been about to see an outline of violence in opposition to girls and thus destroying any possibilities of a tragic ending.

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That call invited the query as to why we weren’t alerted earlier to a very disgusting scene of maximum sexual harassment the place Carmen bullies Don José into deserting and staying along with her and her gang.

No tragedy, then, on this noisy “Carmen”, however loads of motorbikes, rock ‘n’ roll music earlier than the present, at interval and on the curtain name, so there have been few alternatives to shut your eyes and benefit from the music, besides within the pleasant intermezzo that begins the mountain scene within the smugglers’ hideaway.

So did the intercourse, fumes and rock ‘n’ roll hit the spot with the brand new technology of opera goers OA is searching for to draw?

Nicely, no, for of the numerous fashionably dressed younger influencers and TV celebs who have been in viewers for the opening night time, about quarter rushed to the exit or the bar at interval, leaving many empty areas in the home.

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Ian Meikle, editor