Carmen at the Royal Opera House
Barrie Kosky takes Georges Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen – which is one of the most-performed operas in the world – and transforms the classic into a space where performance is play and where performers consciously enact their roles.
First shown by the Royal Opera House in February 2018, this production introduces unfamiliar musical material and replaces all dialogue with pre-recorded spoken text. Beyond this, the show deliberately creates a distance between audience and performer that leaves gaps in interpretation such that connections can be made between the politics of the story and those of accepted norms. In its Brechtian influence, Kosky’s production breaks the illusion of theatre while also presenting questions to audience members who will be pushed to recognise connections with other performances and their nuances within and outside of the theatre space – such as the gorilla-suit reference to Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus. This allows the opera to be viewed afresh but also as part of a rich tapestry of theatrical and operatic history.
Anaïk Morel appears on stage as a sensual Carmen in a pink toreador while the pre-recorded voice details the attributes of a beautiful woman (notably by French standards).
The space is then immediately occupied by a large group of women who come to embody one single model of a sexually enticing woman, the ideal of which is Carmen, for whom all the men lust. The crude representation of the starved desire of the men becomes a spectacular display along the stairs in Katrin Lea Tag’s design, which here signify the arena from which to view another performance – that of the lives of audience members gathered for the familiar space of a recognised and loved piece.
With beautiful vocals from Ailyn Pérez (as Micaëla), Morel and Bryan Hymel (as Don José), conductors Julia Jones and Christopher Willis ensure that the magical playfulness of the performance is also very much present in the music. The production overall is exciting, if at times guilty of dragging a little.
Photos: Bill Cooper
Carmen is at the Royal Opera House from 22nd June until 20th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Carmen here: