Review: Carmen, with a Twist
Barrie Kosky’s production of Carmen is theatrical in every sense of the word...
Choreography is at the core of this rendition of Bizet’s classic; the staging is minimal, a toned-down golden staircase taking centre stage and hosting the incredible dance numbers throughout the performance. While you might expect more pomp and circumstance from a Royal Opera House production, the minimalistic set allows for a greater focus on the songs, and in this production, the dance, that guides the story of the enigmatic Carmen.
The question that runs throughout the production is: who is Carmen? She first appears to us dressed in a pink toreador costume, commanding the stage with her decisive movements. Then, we see her in a gorilla suit, which she takes off and, finally, wears a more familiar Spanish dress. Along with this, Kosky effortlessly underlines the mystery surrounding Carmen suggesting that she is the omnipresent, seductive narrator of the show.
Otto Pichler’s choreography in tandem with Katrin Lea Tag’s costume design should be applauded, the tactful performance and change of costume allow Carmen to transform through the performance. At once she has the control of a toreador, the anger and volatility of a gorilla and the seduction of a Spanish dancer. French mezzo-soprano Gaëlle Arquez was electric in her portrayal of the titular part. American tenor Brian Jagde is also superb in his performance as Don José, his rendition of the song ‘La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jestée’ (The Flower Song) was especially harrowing.
Keri-Lynn Wilson conducted the show excellently, the musical cues merging with the choreography to produce a seamless performance. Speaking to Simple Press before the performance, Wilson noted that this production is a ‘huge twist, just a twist on Carmen.’ And she was certainly right; not only is the staging and choreography more theatrical but, without wanting to spoil the end of the show, the final scenes were particularly surprising. Kosky’s production of Carmen is certainly his own, the show feels familiar to Bizet’s classic but is markedly different- all elements of the show coming together to form a sophisticated production. In particular, the iconic Toreador Song set to the synchronised dancing of the chorus is breath-taking.
Wilson remarked that the ‘staging itself, it all evolves' in this production, though it is not just the staging that evolves but, also, our understanding of Carmen herself.
Carmen runs until 22nd December at the Royal Opera House. Click here for more information.