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Bizet’s Carmen at Opera Holland Park
19th June 2010

Conductor- Matthew Willis
Director- Jonathan Munby
Designer- Emma Wee
Choreographer- Lynne Page
Lighting Designer- Colin Grenfell

Opera Holland Park masterfully transported the audience to hotter climes and brought Bizet’s colourful Carmen to life with clever lighting, despite minimalist stage sets with small props - a bucket of water for the cigarette girls, a camp fire, processional flames.

Tara Venditti was incandescent as Carmen. She portrays a woman fully aware of her own sensuality and how to use it for personal gain; indeed she performs the jail scene to perfection. Unfortunately Carmen’s slavery to her own need for freedom, at any cost, becomes her downfall.

In this production Seán Ruane’s Don José is depicted as a weak character. He does what he is told; by his mother, Michaëla, the army, and, above all, Carmen. When these orders conflict he squirms in anguish not knowing who to obey. The strongest most persuasive character will always win him over.

Julia Spörsen was suitably demure as Michaëla. Her portrayal allows Michaëla’s depth of character and inner strength to shine through beautiful lyricism. John Lofthouse also deserves a mention for his hilariously lecherous Moralés; but the children stole the show, bringing raucous energy and wit to the drama.

Not to be forgotten the orchestra, conducted by Matthew Willis, played with fire and sensitivity. One of the advantages of the Holland Park Theatre is that the Orchestra is visible to the audience. There were moments when the balance was not quite as good as it could have been but this always poses challenge in an outdoor environment.

I have only a few criticisms; the opening felt contrived, as if it had been separately conceived and then tacked on, and the subtitles were so much higher than the stage that it was hard to follow them and watch the action at the same time.

A brilliant, bustling and humorous production, although not without its dark side.

Anna Michel