Bizet’s Carmen is definitely a crowd pleaser, with many singable songs. This production, by Francesca Zambello was first seen at Covent Garden in 2006 and continues to impress four years later, with Duncan Macfarland as the revival director.
Maija Kovalevska is stunning as the timid Michaela, her soprano voice soars on the expansive stage. Her efforts were rewarded at the curtain call when she received the most “bravos” and, for me, she stole the show. Carmen, played by British mezzo-soprano Christine Rice is suitably tempestuous. Rice definitely looks the part and vocally is passionate and alluring. Bryan Hymel is disappointing as Don Jose; he seemed to struggle, particularly in the earlier arias. The orchestra is conducted sublimely by Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, although at times I was enjoying the music so much I felt it could have been louder.
Costumes and set are lavish and grand, aspects that I always expect and love at the Royal Opera House. Tall burnt-orange coloured walls surround the stage, particularly inspired for the final bullfight. The cast is large and often on stage. At the start children, donkeys, horses, chickens all run about, whether this authentically evokes Seville is debatable but it’s certainly fun to watch.
For those willing to stand at the back, there are great cheap deals.