Sunday, 2 March 2014


Opera Australia

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.


  1. Victor , /carmen is a nice opera but of course it depends on production.

  2. Victor, I see you saw the second cast. From your report it would take a very strong cast indeed to stir you from your default sensible and rather unromantic standpoint! Isn't the point of this production partly that Carmen herself has few options in her fatalistic approach to life where options for freedom for a Gypsy woman are few. "Opportunistic seductress" also seems a bit mean: for example, she has the opportunity to avoid Don Jose at the end and doesn't take it.

    1. Oh you are hard on me, marcellous! I think I can be romantic but I didn't find this couple romantic on stage.

      As I see it Carmen uses Jose to get away from the cigarette factory and also from the smugglers but when she sees his weakness she latches on to Escamillo in whom she earlier showed no interest. Carmen could have avoided Jose at the end but despite the warnings my thoughts are she judged him to be too weak to carry through on his threats.

      I don't know about the cast you saw but I found the sight of last Saturday's Jose dragging Carmen back by the skirt whilst both were prone on the ground to be a comical image; not a dramatic one as I assume was the intention.

  3. I didn't mean romantic in the sense of romance between the protagonists, rather the cultural-history sense of extreme passions against social constraints and ethnographically picturesque settings. I suppose that is a kind of degraded late romanticism as the opera is chronologically more belle-epoque..

    I agree that the last encounter doesn't really work all that well in this production.