Carmen at The Queen Elizabeth Hall – Southbank Centre

I remember attending a function of Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall some years ago. The producers were kind enough to include a synopsis in the show: not that I needed one, since the show wasn’t exactly hard to follow. This production, an adaptation of the 1875 opera by Georges Bizet (1838-1875), would have benefited from having a synopsis too: having suspended disbelief before entering the Southbank Centre, it was a bit of a surprise to find myself relying on the foreknowledge of Carmen to understand what was going on.

Production photo of CARMEN by Amanda Fordyce
Production photo of CARMEN by Amanda Fordyce.

Even then, not everything was entirely clear, partly thanks to a relatively minimalist set (a simple sofa was by far the largest object on the set) and partly thanks to the introduction of a movie studio subplot. A cameraman (Eryck Brahmania, who also plays a cleaner and a fan, i.e. a fan of Carmen, rather than an airflow device personified) is at one point ‘filming’ from the front of the stalls, but at least others is more or less discreet. . The film’s director (Isaac Hernandez) gestures widely in movements that I think would be interpreted by most people in the audience to indicate colorful language in his frustrations with things that seemingly go wrong, or at least don’t happen that way. the precise way he he would prefer.

In the film studio scenes and sequences, Natalia Osipova, in the title role, is a ballerina playing a ballerina: this Carmen doesn’t seem to do much more than dance on or off stage. Whether or not she’s technically a gypsy seems to be irrelevant, and the show gives the audience a glimpse of what goes on between the characters in the film when they’re not filming. For example, Michaela (Hannah Ekholm) seems rather bored at one point at a solo dance that she expresses frustration, presumably not having much to do while filming a scene involving characters other than her own.

Jason Kittelberger’s José portrays envy over the burgeoning relationship between Carmen and Escamillo (also Hernández) with jaw-dropping, deliberately jarring and twisted moves. This is not so much a love triangle as a love rectangle, the other party is Michaela, which further cements the central role that Carmen has in this production: absolutely everything revolves around her. With both José and Escamillo, Carmen de Osipova performs some exciting and gripping sequences. But this Carmen was ultimately still pretty elusive: In addition to being an excellent dancer who is the center of attention for four other people, her lack of character development is, frankly, disappointing.

Dave Price is listed as the show’s composer, although there are instantly recognizable melodies drawn directly from Bizet’s opera that were, to me at least, far more memorable than the newer infusions that were undoubtedly appropriate for the multi-scene setup. . There was rarely a dull moment in this emotionally charged production. But at times it felt like a box-ticking exercise, with the full range of human emotions crammed into the narrative, for the cast to demonstrate their versatility, illustrating joy as passionately as bitterness. The discerning crowd at the Southbank Center surely deserves more than that.

3 star review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Prosper Mérimée’s timeless story of love, passion and murder leaps from the stage to merge with the real lives of the show’s dancers in this contemporary adaptation.

Queen Elizabeth Hall
acting and dance

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