Sensuous, passionate and untamed, Carmen kindled scandal, fascination and delight throughout polite society from her very first appearance. Clare Norburn’s engaging concert/play presents the tortuous generation of this uncompromising femme fatale within the lecherous mind of Prosper Mérimée, a 19th century mother’s-boy lothario, played with gentle conviction by Robin Soans. He struggles, flirts and eventually fights with the dynamic, multi-faceted spirit of his creation, who is realised with seductive charm by Suzanne Ahmet. Their bouts of intimacy, creativity and comedy were brilliantly matched with some very well chosen musical interludes. These form the excellent concert part of this production.

Old Seville is conjured up by favourite numbers from Bizet’s popular opera and nearly all the best Spanish tunes I can think of, including a thrilling virtuoso version of Falla’s ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ set for two guitars and flute. Playing from memory, this little band acted as a chorus, the music slipping in and out of the narrative as required. Francisco Correa and David Massey could magically evoke the heat, the tension and bustle of the drama, whereas Emily Andrews’ flute gave a fatal, haunted tone to the scene. Her rich mezzo voice brought some of the opera to the stage while her flamboyant flamenco with castanets added to the comedy. Director Nicholas Renton managed to meld this complex ensalada into a very happy evening’s entertainment.

St George’s Church,
22 November 2019
Rating: ★★★★☆
Andrew Connal

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