This is Carmen as you've never seen it before. So often a gaudy presentation of hot-blooded passion and haughty gypsy distain, it is an altogether different take on Bizet and Mérimée's tale of thwarted love and bitter betrayal.
The entire drama takes place on a gigantic walk-down staircase that fills the stage in Katrin Lea Tag's design, beautifully lit by Joachim Klein. On to this precipitous platform tumbles the cast, led by the Royal Opera's wonderfully adaptable chorus, made to sing, dance, laugh, jostle and sleep on the rising steps that represent everything from a cigarette factory to a chilly mountainside to a bullring.
Those who saw Kosky's Saul at Glyndebourne in 2015 (revived this season) or his astonishing, all-singing, all-dancing production of Shostakovich’s The Nose (a highlight of Covent Garden's last season) will know that he makes huge demands on the chorus, and here they rise to the occasion again, cantering up and down the steps like mountain goats.
But the most winning trick in this Carmen is the choreography of Otto Pichler. He runs the gamut of dance styles, from Pina Bausch to Bob Fosse, from the charleston to Motown, via jitterbugging and hand-jiving. Kosky restores music seldom heard for this double-cast production, drawing on a new edition of Carmen prepared by Michael Rot.
Anna Goryachova gave a superb performance in the first run of this production, embodying the she-cat Carmen with her flashing eyes and fearsome claws, ready to strike at anyone who stands in her way as she morphs from a souvenir matador doll through a history of dresses in the monochrome and sepia signature of Tag's costumes. If you love her, you are playing with fire: if you don’t love her, she's more dangerous still.
In her place in the first run of this revival comes Uzbekistan-born mezzo-soprano Ksenia Dudnikova. US tenor Brian Jagde is the besotted Don José. Russian bass Alexander Vinogradov is the dashing Escamillo.
This Carmen comes very highly recommended.
'Carmen' is sung in
French with English surtitles. Booking opens at 9AM, Wed 25 July. 'Carmen' returns from 22 June to 20 July 2019: booking for those performances opens in the spring
|What||Bizet's Carmen, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
30 Nov 18 – 22 Dec 18, Times vary; 7 performances, running time about 3 hours
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|