Opera Scotland

Carmen 2015Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Carmen

After a brief appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival, with an enjoyable concert performance of H M S Pinafore, Scottish Opera's 2015-16 season proper began with a revival of the staging of Carmen by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser. This was first put on by Welsh National Opera, and was mounted by Scottish Opera in 1999. This ran in tandem with a new small-scale tour of Così fan tutte. In the New Year the premiere of a new work by Stuart MacRae, The Devil Inside, was followed by three further operas being given by the company for the first time - Ariodante, Rusalka and The Mikado.

This was a quitr remarkable achievement. One of the greatest challenges facing opera companies is the need to produce regular revivals of bread-and-butter repertory works, while avoiding any sense of staleness or routine. This Carmen started off in Cardiff nearly twenty years ago, and has been seen frequently in the years since. It is, however, a while since the production was last performed in Scotland. That revival, back in 2006, fielded a cast that was a judicious mix of familiar and unfamiliar, with a conductor, Carmen and Don José all new to the company. And so it was this year.

For any comparison in Scotland it is necessary to go back to the glorious days of the 1977 Festival production by Piero Faggioni with Berganza and Domingo. The orchestra of Scottish Opera, playing beautifully under David Parry, didn't quite match Abbado's LSO on razor-sharp form, but in every other respect this revival actually reached a higher, more consistent level of excellence across the board. This included an excellent recreation of the highly contrasted lighting in what was always an extremely simple design scheme.

The detailed reworking of the production, revived by Benjamin Davis, was superb, starting from curtain rise and a row of bored, sweaty and thoroughly listless conscripts. The tobacco-girls were just as clearly differentiated and the children also excellent. Their singing was excellent, while French diction came over clearly and expressively, led by the fine Zuniga and Moralès.

Justina Gringyte had already sung the title role with success at the Coliseum, after several successful seasons on Covent Garden's Jette Parker Young Artists scheme. Even so, her interpretation was an astonishing achievement. This Carmen was an almost elegant figure, beautifully sung, with all sorts of subtle touches, nothing overstated. She sang quietly with great control until the rare outbursts that were necessary. And she showed the best castanet technique since Berganza and, before her, Ann Howard.

Noah Stewart had the necessary touch of steel in the voice, but the tone melted beautifully in the scenes with Micaëla and the Flower Song. Most of the other performers were familiar, though not in this type of repertoire, and also gave highly distinguished performances. The two smugglers came over very strongly. It all made for a highly enjoyable revival at the Sunday matinee on 8 November.

Performance Cast

Moralès a corporal of dragoons

Andrew McTaggart

Micaëla a peasant girl

Nadine Livingston

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Noah Stewart

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Timothy Dickinson

Carmen a gypsy

Justina Gringytè

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Ellie Laugharne

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Marie Claire Breen

Lillas Pastia an innkeeper

François Menard-Noens

Escamillo a toreador

Roland Wood

Dancaïre a smuggler

Andrew Dickinson

Remendado a smuggler

Nicholas Sharratt

Guide

François Menard-Noens

Performance DatesCarmen 2015

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

7 Oct, 19.15 9 Oct, 19.15 11 Oct, 16.00 13 Oct, 19.15 15 Oct, 19.15 17 Oct, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

22 Oct, 19.30 24 Oct, 19.30

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

27 Oct, 19.15 29 Oct, 19.15 31 Oct, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Nov, 19.15 6 Nov, 19.15 8 Nov, 16.00 12 Nov, 19.15 14 Nov, 19.15

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