CARMEN | Royal Opera House, London

This daring, minimalist Carmen sees a giant staircase dominate the entire stage. Spotlights, cabaret dance, and stage directions read out over the PA system, constantly remind us that we are in a theatre, watching a representation.

Though Carmen is now about the most popular opera in the whole world, this is not a recommended production for first-timers. The plain and unchanging set, as well as long moments of entirely static staging, demands high engagement from the audience for the (nearly) four-hour run time.

Don José’s (Francesco Meli) lamenting aria in the second act is a standout moment musically. Anna Goryachova’s Carmen exudes charisma at every moment, and punches out the lower range with gusto. Conductor Jakub Hrūša doesn’t go for rousing camp, but keeps the score light, except for a few key moments.

There are lots of ‘cool’ things going on in this production: choreography (Otto Pichler) that blends vaudeville, charleston, and 80s voguing; white clown makeup (for some); Carmen sings “Habanera” in a gorilla suit; she shouts out “entr’acte” before the interval. What does it all mean? No idea. But it’s certainly an interesting departure from The Royal Opera’s previous, traditionally period 2006 production. Those looking for something a bit new and different will find it here.

Until 16 March 2018. Tickets from £8.

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