Grimeborn’s Carmen on the Arcola: Bizet for the TikTok era

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pera has some ways of killing off its tragic heroines. The French critic Catherine Clément catalogued a couple of: “9 by knife, two of them suicides; three by hearth; two who soar; two consumptives; three who drown” – the checklist goes on. Clément continued, “Essentially the most feminist, probably the most cussed of those useless girls” was Bizet’s Carmen however, inevitably, “this lady who says ‘no’ will die too”, stabbed by her jealous lover Don José.

In Bizet’s 1875 unique, she dies at a bullring in Seville. In Baseless Cloth’s manufacturing for Grimeborn, Dalston’s annual opera competition, issues prove in another way. Gone is the opera home orchestra, changed by a trio of bassoon, violin and accordion (“music by Leo Geyer after Georges Bizet”, the programme says). The unique lasts almost three hours; this model, directed by Joanna Turner, who additionally gives a brand new textual content, clocks in at simply 45 minutes, and is sung in English, not French.

As for the storyline, Carmen now not works in a cigarette manufacturing unit however on a grocery store checkout, whereas José is a safety guard. Escamillo, the bullfighter who Bizet’s Carmen falls for, is now a TikTok influencer. You get the image: that is London 2022, not Paris 1875.

It isn’t the opera’s first makeover; most famously, in 1954, Otto Preminger turned it into Carmen Jones, a movie primarily based on a 1943 stage musical with an all-black forged. That model made a transparent level; can we are saying the identical for this new adaptation? Largely, sure: males are nonetheless the issue.

Felicity Buckland, Louisa Until, Jonathan Cooke and Claire Wild

/ Steve Gregson

Moments earlier than the motion begins, an announcement tells us, “Carmen is sung by Felicity Buckland. Felicity is pregnant. Please be aware that it’s the singer who’s pregnant, not the character”. Not the sort of info you normally recover from a grocery store Tannoy.

Whereas Marina Hadjicoula’s costume designs have the ring of on a regular basis authenticity, there are barely any units or props: no drawback, given some persuasive performing and singing.

Joanna Turner’s libretto wreaks havoc on the plot nevertheless it nearly coheres, and there are some witty strains: Escamillo’s “Toréador, en garde” turns into “You comply with me on Instagram”, which scans completely.

Carmen stays a sufferer of coercive management, but fights again in a approach that Bizet couldn’t permit. In Buckland’s efficiency, she’s a pressure of nature, capricious however indomitable. Claire Wild’s Micaëla is just not the milk-and-water determine we’re used to however a fiery lady, decided to win again José however with a watch on the charms readily obvious in Nick Morris’s Escamillo.

By all the foundations of musical logic, Geyer’s mixture of violin, accordion and bassoon must be unworkable. It succeeds so utterly that you just barely discover the absence of an orchestra.

Grimeborn at Arcola Theatre, to August 13, arcolatheatre.com


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