Bizet's tale charts the downward spiral of a young soldier as he falls for a strong-willed girl from the local cigarette factory. The new production is performed by a young, 34-strong South African cast. The performers were chosen from over 1,000 who auditioned from all over South Africa. The Wilton's run marks the company's first performances outside their native country.
Rory Bremner is best known as a political satirist and impressionist, but in fact, Carmen is his second opera project. In 1999, he translated Weill's Der Silbersee, also for Broomhill Opera at Wilton's Music Hall.
Carmen is directed by Mark Dornford-May, artistic director of Broomhill Opera and the Spier Festival, and is conducted by Charles Hazlewood. It runs in repertoire with a radical new production of the medieval Chester Mystery Plays, The Mysteries Yiimimangaliso, which features the same South African company. Seven different languages are used in The Mysteries Yiimimangaliso, the main four being Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu.
The two productions form Wilton's new season of work, which runs from 23 May to 30 June 2001. Wilton's Music Hall was built by pub owner John Wilton in 1858 and is the world's oldest surviving extant music hall, built on the back of a pub. It was closed in the 1880s and later became a Methodist church and then a rag warehouse. Once condemned, it was saved by the intervention of Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Sir John Betjeman.
Broomhill Opera was founded in 1993 and made Wilton's its home in 1999. It has a long-term agreement to restore and manage the building and the artistic programme. Work to date has involved Bremner, Simon Callow, Jonathan Miller, Charles Sturridge, Thomas Allen, Philip Langridge, Elija Moshinsky and Benjamin Luxon.
- by Terri Paddock