Triumph of a Tragédie
Bizet’s opera is pared to the bone in a brilliant staging by ROH Jette Parker artists at Wilton’s Music Hall
16 November, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor
Aigul Akhmetshina sings Carmen. PHOTO: Clive Barda
You don’t need hearing aids to enjoy the brilliant staging of Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen at Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel, which I was fortunate to catch on its last night.
The four young singers are all ROH Jette Parker Programme artists, well advanced in training to sing in the giant opera auditoriums of the world. And they don’t hold anything back just because Wilton’s is a small venue seating only 300 people compared with 2,300 at the Royal Opera House and 3,800 at the New York Met.
Visionary theatre director Peter Brook’s 1981 Carmen is very much a cut-down version of the Bizet opera. There’s no cigarette factory, no choruses of kids, soldiers or townspeople and no other Gypsies.
Instead, it focuses on the bare bones of the opera without the clutter of the original, without the fairy-tale. Thus, we get an astonishing Carmen sung powerfully by Russian mezzo Aigul Akhmetshina, exudingly sexy.
You have to feel so sorry for poor Don Jose, sung by Thomas Atkins, mere putty in Carmen’s hands as any man would be. Almost stealing the show is Hungarian baritone Gyula Nagy as Escamillo, strutting about in his matador gear, then dancing the tango with Carmen. American soprano Francesca Chiejina sings a delightful Micaëla.