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Review: Ellen Kent's production of Carmen, at the Aylesbury Waterside
EVEN for an opera novice like me, Carmen is famously full of familiar music, bold staging and hot-blooded passions.
And the show performed on Friday night – for one performance only - at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre delivered on all these elements in boldly brilliant style.
The opera tells the story, naturally enough, of Carmen, a gypsy girl who entices a soldier she meets in Seville, putting a dent or two in his career along the way.
The soldier, Don Jose, leaves the army and embraces a life of crime at Carmen’s behest, while she also finds herself attracting the attentions of an equally passionate bullfighter along the way. The stage, then, is set for a dramatic finale fuelled by obsessive love and jealousy.
This production of Carmen, directed by Ellen Kent, is accessible, engaging and above all entertaining. My experience of opera is pretty limited, but this is lighter on its feet than some of the other classic shows, making for an experience that is very easy for an audience to get to grips with.
In the title role Nadezhda Stoianova was excellent. Delivering impeccable vocals throughout, her portrayal of Carmen as somewhere between romantic heroine and cynical schemer was a pleasure to watch.
She masterfully brings the character to vivid life on the stage, bursting with charisma and presence. Opposite her Nicolae Busuioc as Don Jose provided equally impressive vocals, perfectly evoking the tortured soldier whose obsessive love of Carmen will inevitably lead to tragedy.
The staging of the show was vibrant and clever, capturing the spirit of its Spanish setting beautifully.
And, of course, Bizet's music itself is a pleasure to behold. By turns rousing, touching and haunting, the show certainly delivers no shortage of memorable songs, superbly performed by the Chisinau National Opera & Philharmonic Orchestra.
And this accessibility is perhaps the great joy of Carmen, and certainly this production. It seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce those inexperienced in opera to the musical form. This version, bristling with atmosphere, talent and spirit, is likely to leave you craving more.