Carmen: Opera Up Close And Personal 


Everyone knows that person, who will have that presence that commands attention as soon as they walk in to the room. They twist people round their little finger, get just what they want with the minimal amount of effort. Life seems rosy for them, or is it? OperaUpClose’s production of Bizet’s Carmen at Soho Theatre well and truly conjures up this ice-queen with-a-heart image, with Director Robin Norton-Hale’s exquisite vision.

By creating a sensual yet relateable Carmen (Lilly Papaioannou), added with a dimension of violent defensiveness, seeing her spirit obliterated painfully slowly by the menacing Don Jose( Michael Bracegirlde), the soldier who let’s her escape a spanish prison stint, it’s compulsive viewing. This relationship is the stuff of nightmares, Bracegirlde makes Jose go beyond possessiveness to almost the point of all consuming. There is no love from Don Jose, just a writhe for control between Carmen and himself, his strong Tenor voice adding to moments of great menace. Papaioannou gives a performance that displays her rich and powerful Mezzo voice (the seductive Habenera sounds like it was written for her), as well as some of the finest acting to be seen in Opera today. Her plight as a tormented woman is breathtaking to watch. 

Innocent love interest Escamillo ( Marc Callahan) doesn’t really stand a chance as the salvation to the situation, with the web that has been spun by Both Don Jose and Carmen. He is the perfect man for a tormented Carmen, but this is Opera so the perfect man doesn’t always get an easy ride. Callahan is very charming, with a matinee idol glint in his eye and his intimate rendition of Toreador cemented his power overan audience. Norton-Hale has made the scenes of Carmen and Escamillo capture that first love flush and although their scenes are brief you can feel a tension in the air.

The production is accompanied by a quartet led by musical director Berrak Dyer and adds to the intimate nature of the opera. The solo Violin pizzicato passages were effective of highlighting impending drama. 

All members of the cast were fautless in their performances and a genuine commaradery that radiates to the production is very effective. Micaela (Roisin Walsh) was a revelation as a small town girl, whose heartbreakingly stunning voice impressively portrayed her sadness at playing second best to Carmen with Don Jose’s affections.

Soho Theatre has played host to one of the most exhilarating and dramatic productions of Bizet’s Carmen London has ever seen, OperaUpClose’s realism and outstanding performances make it a Must See! 


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