FOR anyone new to Opera this WNO Carmen is the perfect introduction.
Bizet wrote a masterpiece in ‘Carmen’ and this Welsh National Opera version is a master class in accessibility.
The music is, of course, more recognisable than most other operas and with the staging updated to some undefined Latin American country where bandits mingle with bullfighters – it combines for the perfect operatic evening.
Under the baton of its flamboyant conductor Tomáš Hanus, the WNO orchestra is full of thrills and excitement, echoing the action director Jo Davies achieves on stage and complimenting magical movement direction by Denni Sayers and powerful fight direction from Lisa Connell.
The Set by Designer Leslie Travers is a wall-to-wall half crescent housing four stage levels, which transform perfectly to the four locations of each of the four acts.
It towers impressively, yet allows for intimate scenes to be played out in various places on this honeycombed labyrinth.
The lighting by Oliver Fenwick is equally impressive – none more so than in the final scenes when a whole bar of light rises silently from floor to ceiling making a breath-taking visual statement on the action it illuminates.
Stand out performances for me were Philip Rhodes who positively exhumes charisma as the toreador Escamillo, Ross Ramgobin as the love besotted soldier turned bandit Moralès and Anita Watson is perfect as his spurned lover Micaëla.
Virginie Verrez stuns us as the feisty femme-fatale Carmen.
She fights like an alley cat, seduces like the fabled cat woman and sings about as powerfully passionately as it gets – she is just purr- fect.
The chorus work – including that of the children – is of the highest standard and gloriously underpins the solo artists.
Click here for times, tickets and more information.
Review By Euan Rose