This year, Handa Opera revives Gale Edwards’ much-loved 2013 production of Carmen under Andy Morton’s direction.
Early drizzle bathed the singers in fine showers which, thankfully, soon ceased for the entire performance.
Described as one of the most promising mezzos of her generation, the petite Josè Maria Lo Monaco performs a wildly passionate Carmen who commands the stage with her presence and her vocal strength.
Basque tenor Andeka Gorrotxategi captures our sympathy for his Don José, whose increasing desperation is leading him to perdition.
Luke Gabbedy performed Escamillo’s Toreador song with great charm, Natalie Aroyan was as sympathetic a Micaela as you could get, and Jane Ede and Margaret Trubiano are playful and loyal as Carmen’s gypsy friends Frasquita and Mercedes.
The dancing was outstanding, and Brian Castles-Onion did justice to Bizet’s melodious score.
I have a big quibble with this production, however, which omits one of Edwards’ most important directions.
Edwards’ production ends with Don Jose looking at the body of murdered Carmen at the front of the stage, while at the top of the raked stage Escamillo stands next to the bull he’s just slaughtered. The startling visual juxtaposition offered a radical new perspective on the opera, and particularly on Carmen.
This production ends lamely by comparison and that is disappointing. Nonetheless there is much to enjoy in it, and if you didn’t see Edwards’ production, you won’t have a point of comparison.
Until Apr 23, 7:30pm. Opera On Sydney Harbour, Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquaries Point. $65-$359+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au
Review by Irina Dunn.