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Carmen

Malvern Theatres

*****

BIZET will probably not have anticipated the arrival on stage of a huge white charger ridden by a Spanish soldier and dancing to the rhythms of the orchestra!

The less extrovert arrival at two points of a donkey was one thing, but the majestic presence of this magnificent horse raising his hooves and tapping his shoes to the music was a touch of circus to enrich the evening’s entertainment. The audience loved it!

It is not difficult to understand why the 19th Century audience in Paris were rather shocked by the opera when it was first performed. Carmen, the archetypal femme fatale, is a morally shocking heroine, voluptuous, sensual and devoid of faithfulness.

She lures Don Jose with her charms only to discard him cruelly in favour of the great toreador Escamillo. The abruptness of the fatal conclusion may be just deserts, but we are lured as an audience into delighting in her voluptuousness nonetheless.

The scale of Ellen Kent’s production is impressive in these days when so many plays have to work with small casts. The final curtain call did not include a fair proportion of the cast who are also not included in the cast list. For example we were enchanted to see a dozen children swelling the crowds at the festival early in the play.

The lovely and imposing set presented us with the gates of a Spanish town and a hint of the warmer Mediterranean climate we have been missing over the winter in this part of the world! The scene was classical, grand and warm.

The costumes were likewise colourful, varied and exciting. The soldiers in their blue and gold uniforms, the locals in the bright reds, whites and creams, contrasted with the dark cloaks of the smugglers in Act Three. The visual impressions were excellent.

Bizet’s music is sublime. The orchestra performed with great energy and yet sensitivity. The gentle tones of the harp complementing the boldness of the percussion section were all conducted with passion and at times tenderness by the conductor, Vasyl Vasylenko.

The performances were of course led and dominated by the lead provided by Liza Kadelnik as Carmen. Her seductive performance was outstanding and she sang beautifully. She controlled the stage and looked perfect for the part. As Don Jose, Vitality Liskovetskiy sang well but lacked the physical presence to be the ideal and charming male lead. Iurie Gisca as Escamillo was strong and convincing, if a touch mature in age. Micaela was played by Alyona Kistenyova: she is the most honourable character and a victim of Don Jose’s waywardness. Her singing was a bit shrill at times for the most pitiable character in the story, but her rendering of the ‘Weeping Mother’ was moving and powerful.

We are indebted to Ellen Kent and the Orchestra and National Opera & Ballet Company of Moldova for this touring production. It was lavish, classical, extravagant and musically rich. A wonderful evening.

Tim Crow

26-3-16 

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