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Bizet’s “Carmen” Welsh National Opera at Theatr Hafren, Newtown, Powys 6/9/14. There are regularly some excellent productions at Theatr Hafren featuring well-known names from theatre and opera, so was excited about seeing this performance. A plain stage set, grey blocks to suggest the harsh tobacco factory and military environment plus cast members smoking cigarettes all the way through – real or pretend, I kept expecting the sprinkler system to go off! But, if you are expecting the fiery, exciting exotic colours associated with a Spanish gypsy temptress, you will be very disappointed. Jonathan Miller’s aim was to take out the overtly ‘grand opera’ and keep to the raw story. However, this also missed out the passion and colour that must surely be the fundamental basis of the story. As the programme blurb suggests, it is the tale of a seductive temptress. The 1950s neat little grey button-up frock with kick pleats did nothing for me, especially her ‘seductive’ dance for Don Jose. No wonder he was distracted by the call to arms! The English translation by Rory Bremner was, however, inspired especially for the soldiers in the opening scene. The dialogue was witty and the orchestra excellent. Don Jose seemed to struggle a bit here and there but overall the cast were very good, including the supporting voices of Daisy Brown and Elin Pritchard. Basically, it was an interesting interpretation that lost its appeal because of the lack of passion. It was really not clear why the only character with an elaborate red and gold costume was the swaggering toreador Escamillo in the final scene. As for the finale with the murder of Carmen in a ‘torrid rage’ – this was a single gunshot behind the scenes and a disappointing anti-climax. Not my favourite performance, but there were some good bits here and there.

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