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18 January, 2011

Brilliant Carmen opening at the Sydney Opera House

Carmen. Sydney Opera House. Saturday 15th January 2011

The opera company has pulled it out of the bag again with a highly satisfactory reprise of Carmen in the production by Francesca Zambello. Not one but four international artists were engaged, headed by Israeli mezzo Rinat Sharham who sang a most creditable gypsy. Tenor Richard Troxell was Pinkerton in the famous 1995 movie and also makes a very fine Don José. Teddy Tahu Rhodes played the Toreador to a tee. The other minor roles were all up to scratch, and even Lillas Pastia was well cast, running as he/she does the tavern of Act II on the outskirts of Seville. Nicole Car as Micaela was the only local in a leading role and she was excellent, being, I was told, amongst the youngest on the stage at 24.

Maestro Guillaume Tourniaire bounced, danced, bobbed and leapt on the podium, arms swinging up to two metres at times, two centimetres at others. I cannot imagine that such animation could possibly induce the orchestra members to respond any more sympathetically. Indeed, the exhausting routine could have been a distraction. The overture was the fastest I have ever heard - at least initially - and I have heard some fast Carmen overtures in my time. Yet he took some passages more tenderly and seemed sympathetic to the piece overall despite the calisthenics.

Orchestra and chorus were up to their usual high standard and the hall was packed out.

This original production was given in 2008 with Richard Hickox conducting and his wife doing the title role. However, there were animals which for some reason were all left out of this current production. The first scene had a mule and chickens on stage while Escamillo arrived on horseback. A most memorable moment was that beautiful black horse taking a ‘bow’ at the end.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..