Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gritty Urban Carmen at the Watergate

Sopranos consigned to wheelie bins, costumes direct from the urban grunge section of Penneys and hold the manzanilla, it's Dutch Gold and spice burgers  all round for the cast of Opera Theatre Company’s latest production of Carmen.

It’s Carmen all right, but not as we know her. Director Gavin Quinn relocates the anti-heroine of Bizet's opera comique  from Spain to the Northside of Dublin with a sleazy cast of  hoodlums that would fit right into a party scene of Love Hate.  The soldiers are transformed to unruly  members of An Garda Siochana,  with culchie accents , flirting with the tarty girls, in  lurid leggings and hoopy earrings . There is a shiny suit too for Escamillo, (Owen Gilhooly) a  fighter, maybe of the bare knuckle  or kick boxing variety  given the absence of gloves  with a fetching  mix and match wardrobe including pedal pushers and sleeveless hoodie ensemble that is surely the envy of baritones all over the opera world.  Some of the dialogue and lyrics are very funny and convincingly delivered- lots of Dublineze but no swearing.  Don  Jose reads his mother's letter on his smart phone. Of the on stage action, a gentleman next to me said 'It reminds of John Street on a Saturday night after the pubs close'  And I suspect that, for many theatre goers, the problem with this  Carmen  was that it was all too familiar with a gritty set of characters that repulsed rather than seduced.  Compelling  but appalling in a sort of 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' sort of way. 

The singing from a 18 strong cast  is excellent. Imelda Drumm in the title role has an element of pantomime  dame Twink in her portrayal of a minxy Carmen toying with a gormless Don José played by American tenor Michael Wade Lee, who is understandably a little confused where to place his accent at times.  Maireid Buicke is tender and lovely as Micaela and Maria Hughs was impressive in her debut performance as Mercedes
By any standards, this is a big production with 30 or so musicians and singers  conducted by Andrew Synott. Luxurious in terms of the calibre of singing and quality of the orchestra led tonight by Mircea Petcu ,  placed on stage right giving the audience another performance aspect to watch . 
And the verdict of the interval audience . 'Well- quite different but the singing was wonderful ' said one lady. A gentleman who had arrived in elegant dress suit  appeared after the interval in less formal attire obviously  feeling the occasion didn't warrant the full dressing up treatment after all. 
Seductive and sultry? No way José- but compelling and enthralling in its own way and worth seeing? Yes!  

Venue Note . The foyer of the Watergate Theatre Kilkenny is a little cramped but the cafe upstairs had the nicest willow pattern tea cups I've seen in any theatre café. There is good leg room and the seats were very comfortable in this converted cinema  with good visibility in stalls and balcony.

Carmen continues to tour with a dozen dates around the country extending to Autumn 2013 

Related articles Pagliacci for Everyman

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