Opera Scotland

Carmen 2018Russian State Opera, Komi

Read more about the opera Carmen

This Russian State Opera company has been visiting the UK for several seasons, bringing both their ballet and opera groups. This was the only performance of an opera given in Scotland this season, though elsewhere in Britain Carmen was supplemented by two other popular classics in La traviata and Madama Butterfly.

A warm welcome for Carmen

Up to now, Perth’s recently-built concert hall has not received opera companies outside the Perth Festival. English Touring Opera (ETO), the regular visitors, have mostly stuck to works by Mozart and Puccini. 

It seems that Carmen has not been given professionally in Perth since as long ago as the regular visits of the Carl Rosa company back in the nineteen twenties. This visit by the Russian State Opera was therefore extremely welcome, and greeted with enthusiasm by the Perth audience. The lower section of the hall was packed and on the night the management found it necessary to open up the upper seating as well - a highly welcome sign. Many of this audience must have been seeing Bizet’s masterpiece for the first time.

Visual impact

The costumes were generally traditional - again it was the mountain scene when the characters, soloists and chorus, seemed underdressed and summery for what is usually presented as a cold and spartan environment. Many of the principals were appropriately youthful in voice and appearance.

The sets were very simple, in a traditional style. They worked well on the whole, particularly in the first and last acts set in Seville – an archway at each side represented the entrance to the tobacco factory and the bullring. To the rear there was a footbridge that offered more variety for entrances and exits. Atmospheric backcloths gave an unusually good sense of perspective - a Seville streetscape at the beginning, and the large overpowering bullring at the end. The designs for the inner acts were less successful. The inn was very much an open air one, which was fine on its own terms. The difficulty was, as so often, with the balance in the night scene up in the mountains, Snowy rockfaces were really too bright while the campfire was dazzling.

Performance

The orchestra was small and did not produce as much lyrical phrasing as would have been ideal. However, under conductor Grigorii Arkhipov they gave a brisk account of the lovely score, and the evening passed quickly. Occasionally a tad more drama would have come from occasional slower tempi - Carmen's card scene lacked a sense of doom.

Admittedly there were some cuts in the text to speed things along. Even the lovely flute interlude at the start of act three was omitted along with the smugglers' quintet. Other cuts, largely to the long dialogue or recit passages, were less obvious. By contrast, the scene change after the first act was covered by an interpolated item, a rousing extract from Bizet's Arlésienne music.

For this tour, several roles were double or triple-cast. Of the Perth soloists, Liubov Dobrynina made a lively, attractively sung Carmen and Dmitry Semkin showed off a ringing tenor as José. Pavel Kriuchko portrayed an excellent young Escamillo, with a lighter baritone than usually heard in the role. Perhaps best of all was the sweet-toned soprano of Alina Polova as Micaëla. Also her convincing French diction sounded better than that of some of her colleagues.

The other soloists did what was required of them, even if, like the smugglers, they lost more of their lines than usual.

The financial burden of touring such substantial work must be considerable. There is always a need for compromise in the forces assembled. Everything considered, this commendable effort was therefore most welcome.  Haste ye back!

Performance Cast

Moralès a corporal of dragoons

Alexander Sheypak

Micaëla a peasant girl

Alina Polova

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Dmitry Semkin

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Vladislav Kalashnikov

Carmen a gypsy

Liubov Dobrynina

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Kristina Dovidaitis

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Assia Mistafina

Escamillo a toreador

Pavel Kriuchko

Dancaïre a smuggler

Sergei Garashkin

Remendado a smuggler

Aleksei Chistiakov

Performance DatesCarmen 2018

Map List

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

2 Oct, 19.30

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