Carmen Is Monochrome And Magnificent At Royal Opera House

Carmen, Royal Opera House ★★★★☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 29 months ago

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Carmen Is Monochrome And Magnificent At Royal Opera House Carmen, Royal Opera House 4
(C) ROH. Photo by Bill Cooper

In 1986 Jonathan Miller took Gilbert and Sullivan by the scruff of the neck and delivered a black-and-white jazz age Mikado that’s stayed in the Coliseum’s repertoire for thirty years. Self-styled ‘Gay Jewish Kangaroo’ Aussie director Barrie Kosky may just have given Covent Garden a monochrome minimalist Carmen that will redefine Bizet’s passionate tragedy for a new generation.

The dancing is amazing. Otto Pichler‘s choreography carries the show on an ever-cresting wave of invention: the six principal dancers are by turns acrobats, matadors, Charleston champions and same-sex tangoists.

(C) ROH. Photo by Bill Cooper

The huge chorus joins in magnificently: sprawling, hand-jiving and commedia dell’arte posturing all over a massive flight of black steps.  Some of their familiar melodies are sung with restraint that comes only from complete musical confidence so they feel completely new, but the singing of the Russian-trained principals isn’t quite what such a stylish production deserves.

Although she acts Carmen extremely well, Anna Goryachova‘s contralto takes time to settle, and Kostas Smoriginas can’t support enough of his low notes to make bullfighter Escamillo plausibly butch.  That’s the only element which stops this being a five-star occasion, and there are two different casts.

(C) ROH. Photo by Bill Cooper

The gilt and red velvet box of Covent Garden, the austerity of the set, the wit of the production and the clarity of the voiceover narration clash magnificently with the romantic music to make Carmen a fresh and thrilling evening.

Carmen by Georges Bizet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,  WC2.  In repertoire until 16 March 2018.  Remaining tickets £72-195.  Broadcast live to cinemas across London on 6 March 2018, 6pm: click here.

Last Updated 07 February 2018