We review the latest production of “Carmen” at the English National Opera at London’s Coliseum, and note that its message and moral, is just as relevant. “Carmen” remains a story of all of our times.
Valentina Peleggi strides into the orchestra ensemble. She acknowledges the gentle applause, motions to her orchestra to stand briefly – and then quickly we are off! It is fast, furious, the melodies, swiftly move from one to the next. And there is a difference. There is an anxiousness. This is no Mozart comedy.
And then Micaela – played by the excellent Nardus Williams, making her ENO debut – gently walks into view, amongst the military who are setting the scene. And the opera proper, begins…
‘Carmen”, for me, has always held a soft spot. It was my first opera I ever truly studied as a kid. It has a universal message. In that sense, this production rarely touches the emotional deepens of say a Puccini, or a Verdi. But it may not need to to. It is storytelling after all, and it is family storytelling, the little children swarming early on, and inclusion later.
Having said that, there are some superb emotional moments; Sean Panikkar excels as Don Jose, the sadness in his “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee”, and chemistry with Nardus Williams. Plus the spot on performance and leadership of Ellie Laugharne and Samantha Price, as Frasquita and Mercedes respectively. It is crisp, very tight, very controlled, and it is a journey about sexual and emotional control. A story indeed. With benefits.