It’s always a treat to hear the lilting melodies of Bizet’s Carmen. It was the first opera I performed in as a young child, running through the audience at the Royal Albert Hall to reach the great stage in the round. It is in fact the two sections with the kids chorus that provide the most drama and excitement in Carmen, and I have such fond memories of singing these great verses.
The ENO is currently reviving (for a second time) Calixto Bieito’s production, which was first performed here in 2012. The production is set in Franco’s Spain, a stark contrast to the 18th century setting it was written in. I found it somehow less believable to watch the leading characters navigate the dramatic storyline in this contemporary setting. Alfons Flores’ staging is simple, a few motifs heavily feature – the towering bull silhouette in the final act is perhaps the most memorable. Elsewhere the minimal props add colour and personality to the 1970s look – vintage cars and a battered phonebox are frequently used by the performers on stage.
The vocal performances were varied, I was particularly impressed by Sean Panikkar’s jealous and desperate rendition of Don José. Justina Gringyté showcases a self-assured Carmen, parading confidently across the stage, her vocals were powerful and pleasant to listen to, but I couldn’t fall in love with her, unlike the enamoured soldier’s on stage.
As always the ENO orchestra were on top form, led superbly by Valentina Peleggi. They ensured the favourite tunes soared while letting the singers shine elsewhere with subtle, sensitive playing.
Though this production feels well rehearsed and well suited to the ENO stage, I couldn’t help but miss the more traditional staging, which I feel lets you engage more fully with this French operatic masterpiece.
I was a guest of the ENO. Carmen continues until 27 February 2020, book tickets here.
I’ve spent the first few months of 2019 catching up on the new musicals showing on the West End. The start of 2019 saw many of the best hits from Broadway come over for a season in Britain, and I’ve rounded up my three favourites to book for a fun night out…
Come From Away – A touching true tale which documents the stories of the passengers from the diverted planes, who landed in Newfoundland after the 9/11 catastrophe. The music and lyrics are by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and the characters are based on real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travellers they housed and fed. The musical is 1 hour and 40 minutes with no interval and is an emotional and uplifting show that engrossed me from the first note to the last.
Waitress – The broadway smash hit Waitress premiered on London’s West End at the Adelphi Theatre in February 2019. It is the first ever musical on the West End to be written, composed, directed and choreographed by women. The narrative follows Jenna (played by Smash’s lead Katharine McPhee), a waitress and expert pie-maker, who is trying to escape small town life and an abusive marriage. The set and score are fun with a vintage American charm.
9 to 5 – The 9 to 5 Musical by Patricia Resnick is based on the 1980 musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. The musical premiered in LA in September 2008 and opened last month at The Savoy Theatre on the Strand. Dolly herself flew to London for the Gala show to celebrate with the all star cast – starring Louise Redknapp, Caroline Sheen, Amber Davies, Natalie McQueen, Bonnie Langford and Brian Conley. The story is slightly bizaare, but if you can overlook this you’ll enjoy the upbeat songs sung by a very talented cast.
A growing Christmas tree, a floating hot air balloon, hurrying ice-skaters, mean rats, dancing snowflakes, a heroic nutcracker… Tchaikovsky’s magical ballet is the ultimate Christmas show, always elegant and wonderfully imaginative. Slump into a comfortable velvet Coliseum seat and let the immaculate dancing and mesmerising set entertain you.
The orchestra brings a new energy to this familiar score, conducted by a confident Gerry Cornelius. The narrative is slightly overcomplicated by the part-sharing and splitting: James Forbat dances as the masked Nutcracker, whilst Francesco Gabriele Frola dances him unmasked as well as taking on the role of the Drosselmeyer’s nephew; meanwhile grown-up Clara (Alina Cojocaru) also dances as the ethereal Sugar Plum Fairy. At least the dancers seem to know what they are doing and seamlessly float from scene to scene, excelling in Wayne Eagling’s virtuosic choreography.
The lead couple complement each other, and move effortlessly in the main sequences. While Daniel Kraus is fantastically gruesome as the shudderingly menacing King Rat. It is Eagling’s ensemble dances which really shine in this production, the pretty snowflake chorus and the second act Waltz of the Flowers highlights the English National Ballet talent.
The Tring Park School kids are a joy on stage. Assured and adorable, they animate the production, and dance and sing with an excited spring in their step.
Another magical production of the Nutcracker at the Coliseum… this show always completes my Christmas festivities.
Continues until 30 December 2018. More information and book tickets to the Nutcracker here.