Powerful and evocative opera at Warwick Arts Centre

Carmen, Warwick Arts Centre, February 19.

This Ellen Kent production of Bizet’s passionate and romantic opera has just embarked on a three month nationwide tour. Kent has chosen her performers well. In the lead role of Don Jose the tenor Nicolae Busuioc, who has been awarded the title ‘Merited Artist of Moldova’, gave an excellent performance.

Don Jose, a corporal in the Spanish army, is bewitched by Carmen, a gypsy girl, and persuaded to desert and enjoy freedom with her.

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In fact he joins her band of smugglers, but she soon becomes tired of him and switches to the more charismatic toreador, Escamillo. Of course the story ends in tragedy.

At the arts centre there were some notable absentees from the cast, particularly the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Stoianova - plus a horse and some donkeys (the stage was too small for them).

But it did not matter. The young Zarui Vardanean was magnificent as Carmen. Her powerful voice and elegant movement around the stage captured the spirit of the seductive gypsy girl.

The orchestra also did well, playing the opera’s evocative melodies including Chanson Boheme and the Toreador’s Song.

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It was a shame that people at the front of the audience got a poor view of the action because the orchestra were positioned in front of a low stage. Also, many had to strain their necks to see the subtitles high above the set (the opera was sung in French).

However, the performers worked hard to keep interest alive in a marathon three-hour performance, including two intervals and several scene changes, and won warm applause at the end.

Peter Gawthorpe

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