Bizet’s brassy bombshell bombs a bit

Mention the name Carmen these days and many will think of the sultry Carmen Electra. But the original bombshell was most definitely Bizet’s Carmen in the opera of the same name. GuidOpera’s chamber production of the classic opera swaps the original’s setting of 1820s Seville for 1950s Cuba where Don José, a naïve Englishman, is seduced by the tantalising Carmen. However, her love is a fleeting one and she soon sets her eyes on another man. Voila: a love triangle!

Staging Carmen as a chamber opera seems like a good idea because, as the director explained in his notes, it allows for more focus on the storyline and the complex characters. This is indeed true, but unfortunately some of the singers didn’t seem at ease with this intimacy. That’s not to say it was all bad.

Guido Paevatalu, especially, delivered a good performance as Escamillo with a subtlety and charisma that was missing from some of the other singers.

And while the acting wasn’t great, the direction suffered as well. It was often too extravagant for such a small stage, and at times a little too camp.

The star of the show was the music. Changing the setting of the opera from Seville to Cuba actually worked well and allowed for some very interesting arrangements performed by a small band consisting of a piano, accordion, double bass and guitar. Having such a small band suited the intimate atmosphere of the chamber opera perfectly, and the accordion paired with the guitar made for a very Latin feel.

All in all, the chamber opera failed to do justice to such a popular and groundbreaking opera. The music doesn’t disappoint, and the storyline is interesting, but many of the performers seemed somewhat lost and didn’t manage to fully engage the audience. That being said, it was entertaining, and those who are generally not fans of big, theatrical opera productions might have found this a good middle ground between opera and theatre.

This intense chamber version of Carmen played at Operaen Takkelloftet on Thursday October 4 and Saturday October 6. The full opera will return to the KGL’s stage in January 2013.