Carmen gone to the dogs?

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review: “Carmen”, performed by Opera North at the Lowry

American director Daniel Kramer has set his new production of “Carmen” for Opera North in the USA.

The transposition works well. The small town of Seville is populated by a wonderful variety of characters. There is the tobacco factory where Carmen works and the day and night shift of police with Zuniga (Keel Watson) and Jose (Peter Wedd).

Bizet’s wonderful and familiar music works its charm. Sandra Piques Eddy is a sexy, powerful Carmen and Peter Wedd sings Jose with passion. The music of the Third Act, set in the woods, is less well known, but it gives Elizabeth Atherton, as Micaela, an opportunity for a moving aria, much appreciated by the audience.

Soutra Gilmour’s design gives us a real sense of the town square, the party, the lonely woods and the final “bullring”. My only quibble is with replacing the role of Escamillo, a dramatic performance from Kostas Smoriginas, from toreador into the owner of a fighting dog.

Both bull and dog fighting are cruel sports, but bull fighting has a long and culturally acclaimed history and the toreador at least risks his own life. In addition the appearance of the dog in Act One, a rather well behaved canine, made me more sympathetic towards the animal (which did not get a curtain call!).

Other than that it was a most enjoyable evening. Opera North return to the Lowry on November 15th with their recent production of “Ruddigore”, which I can thoroughly recommend, the ever popular “Madama Butterfly”, and a new production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades”, by Neil Bartlett, the cast of which will include Dame Josephine Barstow.