Georges Bizet's opera Carmen tells the tale of the Spanish soldier who turns his back on his career, family and girlfriend all for his doomed infatuation with a cigarette factory worker and part time smuggler, Carmencita.
In so many of the most popular operas including, Aida, La Traviata, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot one or more characters die. In all of those I usually have a sense of sympathy or sadness for the death(s) especially when the opera has been well sung and acted by the performers.
I rarely, in fact I think never, have that sense of sympathy for the inevitable climactic death in Carmen. For close to three hours I will have sat through what I think is some of the most glorious music in opera but in those last ten minutes or so with Don Jose pleading his love Carmen I invariably have a sense of irritation. Just face facts Jose, I think to myself, and get on with the job. After all, Carmen is a self interested opportunistic seductress and Jose is a weak and unfaithful man. Why should I feel kindly to either?
Opera Australia's production has a nice appearance in terms of the set, the chorus and the major support singers but I felt a little let down by the three principal singers. Close my eyes and Bradley Daley makes for an accomplished Jose with a strongish voice but open my eyes and he is poor fit with Milijana Nikolic's Carmen. Ms Nikolic is an Amazon by comparison and sadly for Daley almost every other male on stage is taller, leaner and more dashing than he. Ms Nikolic possesses a deep voice that was not entirely to my taste in this role. Shane Lowrencev seemed in less than peak form this weekend as Escamillo. Arriving on stage by horse, I think the horse won.
I've enjoyed other productions of Carmen more than this one. Perhaps others in the audience felt differently from me as the concluding ovation seemed pretty enthusiastic.