Carmen - Melbourne Opera
15 September 2012, Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre, Wangaratta.
Starring: Dimity Shepherd, David Rogers-Smith, Philip Calcagno,
Directed by Hugh Halliday
Conducted by Patrick Burns
Music by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Meilhac and Halevy
Carmen, the most-performed seductive opera, recently graced the stage at Wangaratta’s Performing Arts Centre. Ironically, Carmen was thought a flop when it debuted in Paris in 1875, as it was the first play to portray such vagrant characters on stage. Since then, though, this Italian beauty has made its way across the globe and awed audiences with its passionate and lively libretto.
Everyone has probably heard the tune of Carmen, or hummed it at some stage of their life without even knowing where it originated from (well I know I have), but on a weekend in September I finally had the honour of seeing (and hearing) Carmen live in my very own home town thanks to Melbourne Opera, who took Carmen on the road for a short regional tour that concluded in Wangaratta.
Carmen is performed in four acts, the first taking place in a town square, with interactions between the guards and the local factory girls. Corporal Don Jose (Rogers-Smith) is among the men and is reluctant to be seduced by Carmen (Shepherd), the exotic gypsy. Carmen is then found to have drawn a knife on another woman in a fight, and is sentenced to prison. Despite Don Jose’s best efforts he is manipulated by Carmen and allows her to escape. As a result he is arrested in her place.
The opera then explores Carmen’s gypsy love and how she cannot be locked away by a man. As she entices vagrant men, including bullfighter Escamill (Calcagno), her world spirals out of control as jealousy consumes all who fall in love with the seductive gypsy.
Melbourne Opera had certainly hand-picked the finest singers from Victoria, who entertained with energetic and engaging singing and the occasional gypsy dance. Profile performer Dimity Sheppard excelled in the role of Carmen, fulfilling the demanding mezzo soprano role.
Director Hugh Halliday was able to bring together a chorus of around 30, including double casting for the dozen principal roles. Combined with the 40-piece Melbourne Opera Orchestra and a full set, Carmen certainly blew away the full house at the Performing Arts Centre.
Halliday has directed Carmen in Zurich, Berlin, Munich and will take it, along with the majority of the Australian cast, to China later in 2012.
It was an excellent show, one that not even Rogers-Smith's open fly could ruin.
4 out of 5.
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