REVIEW: Carmen, Scottish Opera – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Its accessibility; clarity of narrative; portrayal of an independent, strong-minded woman and a clutch of knockout, familiar tunes make Georges Bizet’s Carmen undoubtedly one of the best-loved operas of all time and certainly one of the most frequently performed (though, surprisingly not in Scotland*).

Scottish Opera present a re-working of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 1999 staging of the work. Forming a bridge between the era of Opéra Comique and the realism of the later 19th Century Italian opera, Carmen is the perfect first opera. Bizet’s skill in representing character through music, the clear, linear narrative and the block-busting tunes, rarely fail to entrance.

Scottish Opera have delivered a solid, traditional and atmospheric production with a top-notch cast. Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Justina Gringyte is impressive as the head-strong gypsy temptress and her powerful voice does full justice to Bizet’s glorious score. Noah Stewart is velvet-voiced as the wronged Don Jose, and Roland Wood a solid, if unremarkable Escamillo. Nadine Livingstone is a beautiful sounding Micaela, but her tendency to whimper too much fails to gain the audiences sympathy and the chemistry between her and Stewart’s Don Jose is non-existent. There’s strong support from the other featured roles, in particular, Timothy Dickinson who delivers a memorable Zuniga.

The choruses both child and adult (especially the chain-smoking, primary school aged tykes, blowing smoke with an attitude and insouciance that belies their years) are glorious and produce a rich sound that is a treat for the ears.

This is a strong, solid staging of a much-loved work and a perfect introduction to opera for those wanting to dip their toe in the water.

Carmen tours Scotland throughout October and November details at: Scottish Opera

*Carmen was not performed in its original Fench in Scotland until 1977.