A Night At The Opera

Carmen

Theatre Severn

31st January 2016

There was a palpable sense of excitement  as the Theatre Severn slowly filled this evening for OperaUp Close’s presentation of Bizet’s Carmen.

With a new English version beautifully worked to fit the original score written by Robin Norton Hale. and with further work on a brand new orchestration by Harry Blake, this is a show that in the business, is said to ,”have legs.” In other words it may run and run and receive as many plaudits as the original.

Georges Bizet was a French composer working for a very short spell in the middle of the nineteenth century. His work was not considered quite what the opera world thought it needed and so Bizet’s  career was spent mainly on interpretations of other people’s work.

He was so afraid of what Paris might think of his new work Carmen that  he ran it first in the provinces  and presented it to the capital when he believed they may be ready for it. They weren’t and Bizet was to die before ever witnessing the success later on in Vienna.

The story of Bizet is sad enough, consequently one isn't surprised that this is a tale of unrequited  love, control and passion all culminating in a tragic ending . Set in Proletariat South America the girls are all workers in a cigarette factory and the men are soldiers.

After hours of boredom People Watching; as the soldiers call it, they are relieved by the girls coming out of the factory to take their breaks. They flirt and play with the soldiers and nothing is ever taken seriously, not until Carmen comes along that is!

Carmen, Jose and Emillio, (The Toreador) fall into a love triangle  that could deliver nothing but sorrow and mayhem and eventually murder and death.

Sticking very much to the storyline that Bizet had written the English version fitted the score like a hand in a comfortable chamois glove. How beautifully that music was delivered by a superb Quartet comprising of Grand Piano, Flute, Violin and Cello.

The Music was so sensitively played it was proven that one doesn’t need a fifty piece orchestra to explore and play with Bizet’s themes and present them in the passionate and exciting way they should be played. This quartet was quite capable of doing it alone and did with marvellous clarity.

However one found sometimes in the crowd scenes, that the voices were pushed together in such a way that clarity of lyric was lost. Fortunately  the action didn't suffer for this and therefore mood and atmosphere was still created. Originally productions would have used used a general chorus but hundreds of extras adding bulk to the sound was not necessary as the company were more than capable of rustling up quite a sound with the cast that they have..

There needs to be a bridge between people’s expectation of Opera and the actual reality of what Opera can achieve.  OperaUp Close can easily do that. Opera needs to made accessible to the masses as it is a crucial part of our heritage, our performing arts and an important part of whom we are as cultural beings. OperaUp Close understands that message and one believes that they will remain a major player in British Opera for many years to come.

This is a magical feast of integrity, beauty and excellence.  Its the same old tale of love growing stale. It was as true in 1875 as it is now and one thing that comes out of all this is the question: When can we as a society be who we are and achieve what we wish to achieve without judgment ? Sometimes what has to be done might not suit everybody, but as Bizet has proven, no matter how you try to answer the questions that love poses us, we become acutely aware that they may never really be answered at all!.

This is a Three Star Review

Owen J. Lewis

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis