Left – Dimity Shepherd and Jason Wasley. Cover – Dimity Shepherd and Simon Meadows. Photos – Robin Halls.
Bizet’s operatic masterpiece Carmen has been performed countless times and interpreted in many ways. From The Two Ronnies' Tooting Carmen, to the Beyonce Knowles version, Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Carmen is an iconic piece of operatic history much loved the world over.
It is with much regret I report Melbourne Opera’s current production, directed by Hugh Halliday is a poor representation of the classic once considered too vulgar for the stage.
I had to check my program several times to be sure I was watching a professional company. At times the performers came across as amateurish in both their acting and choreography. The stilted movements gave the impression that no one was sure where they were supposed to be, and the inclusion of speaking in an Australian accent was too jarring for words.
Sung beautifully by Dimity Shepherd, the young woman of the title lacked the raw sex appeal of the gypsy seductress, and was rather unlikeable in her portrayal.
Shepherd’s hero, Don Jose (played by Jason Wasley) was less than convincing as the soldier turned gypsy who falls for Carmen and is consumed by his lust for her. There was little chemistry between the two and Shepherd behaved like a teenager playing games with a high school sweetheart rather than a mature woman of feminine power.
Accents and movement aside, the two and a half hour performance dragged along and some audience members grew increasingly restless. Opera commands respect, silence. Melbourne Opera’s Carmen did not. The audience shuffled in their seats, texted on their phones and nodded off on each other’s shoulders.
Simon Meadows as bullfighter Escamillo and Kerry Gill as Micaela were the standout performers of the cast. Strong stage presence combined with convincing performances further widened the gap between them and their cast members.
The dancers in particular were wonderful to watch, their talent and classical training evident in their performance. The young women were a gorgeous group, full of the kind of passion and energy you would expect from an opera like Carmen. The Melbourne Opera Orchestra was also a joy to listen to, and a much appreciated respite from the action on stage.
For the record, I’m not generally this critical of any performance, but Carmen left me disappointed. I was expecting great professional opera, and I got a high school production of unconvincing acting whose vocal talent was their only saving grace.
The Melbourne Opera presents
Venue: The Athenaeum Theatre Collins Street Melbourne
Dates: October 22 – November 12, 2011
Venue: Monash University, Robert Blackwood Hall
Date/Time: Saturday November 26 @ 8 pm
Bookings: (03) 9905 1111 | www.monash.edu