Set in the southern states of America the guards are rednecks and the toreadors organise dogfights. It is hard to see the sexual appeal of the latter and there is little erotic charge in submitting to the crude advances of the former. A confused production reaches its nadir in Act Two. Carmen’s dance, instead of being seductive, is almost a karaoke version with a shrill edge of desperation and Escamillo’s (Kostas Smoriginas) swaggering song is undercut by unsophisticated visuals that, instead of raising questions about macho attitudes, actually cause laughter.
Soutra Gilmour’s designs are inconsistent. The scene in Act Two looks like a nightmare version of Oklahoma! whilst the deep, snowy forest in Act Three is nicely atmospheric.
Alexander Ingram conducts Bizet’s magnificent score with subtly. This works well in the solos making it possible to appreciate both the vocals and the instruments. In the crowd scenes, however, a more muscular approach would be better as, at times, the chorus almost overwhelms the orchestra.
- Dave Cunningham