Carmen, Live or Dead | Oriel GroupHave you ever seen Carmen, the Opera? Me either. I mean, if you have – good for you. That’s wonderful, making that kind of commitment to an engagement with hours of spectacle and song in a language, odds are, you don’t know very well. I wish I had that kind of attention span.

If you are, however, one of those individuals more familiar with this lively, luscious latin tale, I would ask that you would take everything you know about the classic production and toss it promptly out the window. Then, turn up the radio to your favorite tunes, stick your head out that window and look out at its mangled corpse. Imagine what you could do with it in an hour, dressing it in the most fabulous codpiece dreamed up in this hemisphere. I imagine that’s what the creators of Carmen, Live or Dead did with this show, and good on them for doing it.

From now until this Sunday, April 30th, The Butterfly Club will be offering 8:30pm performances of a Carmen you have never seen the likes of before. Created by Craig Harwood and leading dame Natalie Gamsu, here is a spectacle of sound, effect, and costume that perfectly balances entertainment, enigma, and essential subject matter.

Traversing the globe, we follow the life and await the death of Carmen Frida Leon Davidovich (don’t worry, I’m giving no spoilers – Carmen makes the knowledge of her impending demise quite clear early on, much as the seasoned and enlightened lover lets a one night stand understand what to do and not to as soon as the lights dim and the fun really begins. There will be laughter, there will be a tragic pull to heart strings, there will be celebration, art, audience participation (unless you are quite lame, shame on you), there will be corsets and rhinestones and there will be breasts. (This is the cabaret, dear reader, is it not?)

Refreshingly, none of these are offered with a cheap asterisk claim of acceptance because “it’s art.” Rather, this is all truly artistic, in a manner that is sad and beautiful, raw and real. It brings to the stage a topic we should be seeing and speaking about much more  freely. If only we could all see each other with the same humanity that Carmen bravely exposes.

Of the many, many accolades one could give to this performance, the sounds that power it through should be given top bill. Gamsu’s superhuman voice and her wildly talented accompanying nymphs were delivered in acoustics designed by pure mastery (or divine intervention, I suppose we can’t be sure). This was a show sung so beautifully I want to wish it were on a bigger stage, yet can’t believe it would have sounded as good when lacking the precious intimacy of this space.

Whatever you choose to do with your weekend, dear reader, is entirely up to you, and I prefer to make no judgement. If it does not, however, involve traversing a labyrinth of fantastic kitsch, a narrated aria of operatic quality, and a codpiece worthy of runway notoriety, then you have simply spent it wrong. Go and see Carmen, Live or Dead before the song of her demise is sung for the last time.


Oriel Group presents
Carmen, Live or Dead
by Craig Harwood

Director Shaun Rennie

Venue: The Butterfly Club | Carson Place, off Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 25 – 30 Apr, 2017
Tickets: $35 –$32
Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com