Review: Carmen, Kings Head ***

Opera Up Close catch their waiting audience by surprise with a flash mob entrance. Suddenly, there is an outburst of beautiful vocals and joyful dancing as the cast move among the spectators, opening the show prior to the overture. The company instantly have the crowd in the palm of their hand, giving brave performances, facilitating their audience to quickly warm to them.

The opera has been contemporized. It is present day, North London; the accompaniment consists of an acoustic guitar and a piano. With some very energised performances, updated libretto, an appropriately bohemian set, and some uninhibited dancing, the cast prove to that there is merit in modernising an already timeless script, as it is a pleasure to watch, showing comedic moments from the opera in ways that are very relatable to today’s world.

Christina Gill gives a healthy, robust and agile vocal performance as Carmen

Although the piece is very entertaining, this opéra comique script has been so severely abridged that it excludes some rather important points, causing much of the drama to be lost. The character, Micaëla, is completely cut from the story. Her part provides a rather considerable obstacle for the main protagonists, and combined with the brevity of the performance, when nearing the end of the opera, the heightened dramatic arguments and complications seem a little unwarranted, as the production has not had enough time for character development, or relationship development.

At times moments of the plot are lost in the articulation when singing, and the abrupt changes in accent from singing to speaking can occasionally jar with the fluidity. There is some rather awkward staging towards the end of the piece, but having said that, predominantly, the production is delightful to behold. Carmen’s gang of friends in particular seem to really enjoy themselves, and are therefore, enjoyable to watch. Olivia Barry as Mercedes and Fleur De Bray as Frasquita provide some distinctly amusing moments, and Christina Gill gives a healthy, robust and agile vocal performance as Carmen.

This production is very light and enjoyable, but overlooks the deeper, darker side that this classic opera is so well known for.

*** (3 stars)
Runs until 5th May
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  1. Carmen – OperaUpClose – The King’s Head, London, (***) | davidrichardsreviews

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