North WestOperaReview

Carmen – The Opera House, Manchester

Composer: Bizet

Conductor: Vasyl Vasylenko

Director: Ellen Kent

Reviewer: Richard Hall

For almost the last twenty five years, producer Ellen Kent’s large scale productions of popular Grand Operas have graced the stages of many regional theatres up and down the country. A venue that Kent visits regularly is Manchester’s Opera House and on this occasion she returns with her own new version of Bizet’s Carmen.

With its instantly recognisable arias including, L’amour est un oiseau rebelle and the popular Flower Song, Carmen, is arguably one of the most accessible and popular operas in the repertoire. In a production that features the chorus and orchestra of The National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Moldova and a stunning group of principal singers, Bizet’s sumptuous score sounds as bright and magnificent as ever.

The plot of Carmen is as well-known as the Opera’s famous arias, having been updated over the years and presented in many different guises including the hit Broadway musical Carmen Jones and Matthew Bourne’s, excellent dance theatre interpretation, Car Man. Following the story of Carmen the bewitching gypsy girl who lures Don José a soldier to leave his comrades and desert; a decision that will ultimately lead him to commit an act of murder, Carmen is an excellent introduction to the world of Grand Opera featuring a melodic and pulsating score and moments of genuine dramatic tension.

In this production a superb expansive set adorned with Roman and Moorish features, depicts 19th Century Seville in all its architectural splendour complete with a main square, a bull ring and a cigarette factory. A large company, including for this performance, children from Stagecoach Theatre Arts in Didsbury and Salford, animate the setting, adding, colour and vibrancy whenever they are on stage. The beginning of Act Four, the spectacular procession of the matadors to the Bull Ring, is particularly impressive.

This reviewer has seen this opera several times but has never heard the role of Carmen sung better. Liza Kadelnik is a revelation, her acting and musical phrasing are excellent and both her tone and musical purity are outstanding. Vitalli Liskovestskyi is equally impressive in the role of Don José. His handling of José’s desperate pleas to Carmen at the end of the opera is deeply moving. As the ill fated lovers, Kadelnik and Liskovestskyi sing exquisitely throughout, demonstrating great musicality and empathy with their roles especially in the passionate and heart rendering final Act. Vasyl Vasylenko conducts with authority and feeling. He develops the musical and dramatic tension brilliantly and achieves a perfect balance between the orchestra and on stage singers

At a time when some of our leading Opera companies are experiencing problems both on and off stage, it is reassuring to know that Ellen Kent remains committed to bringing high quality Opera to the regions. Hopefully she will continue to do so for many years to come.

Reviewed on 19 March 2016

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