Lyric Theatre (Opera Queensland)


An energetic and fast-moving production, this Carmen is among the best to have been seen in Brisbane.

Kristin Chavez sings, acts and dances a very earthy Carmen, whose sensual allure is obvious. She rarely misses a beat in singing robustly while giving a most physical performance. She succeeds in projecting the complexities of Carmen’s character her love of freedom, sense of sexual power and ultimate superstitious fatalism.

Her male admirers match her talent. Konstantin Andreiev sings a beautiful tenor while pleading for Carmen’s love (and convincingly acting his character Don Jose’s descent into crazed and dangerous obsession). As the toreador Escamillo, Jose Carbo proves to be a marvellous anchor, singing with richness while conveying all the swagger of the role. In the smaller part of the officer who pursues Carmen, Andrew Collis is consistently excellent.

Lecia Robertson gives a touchingly sweet performance as the country girl Micaela, singing beautiful arias and duets with Andreiev.

The production is from Covent Garden via Opera Australia. Francesca Zambello’s staging and direction involves endless action and movement, with crowds busily swirling around and interacting with key characters. (Interestingly, when one expects a reappearance of the masses at the conclusion, she very effectively leaves Carmen to die alone.) Revival director Matthew Barclay with assistant Brendan Ross have marshalled their considerable forces well, with more than 60 on stage at times, all actively engaged in the drama – soldiers, cigarette factory girls, gypsies, smugglers, bullfighters and the dozen ragamuffins: the child choristers are splendid performers.

My only quibble is that the hideaway in the mountains is rather too crowded a scene, although the abseiling display is great to behold. Tanya McCallin’s design and gorgeous costumes wonderfully evoke Seville, especially the opening courtyard scene.

Emily Burke and Sally-Anne Russell are vivacious gypsies in the tavern and card-reading scenes, while Guy Booth as soldier and Shaun Brown and Bradley Daley as smugglers give strong vocal support. Leisa Barry-Smith sultrily characterises the tavern-keeper Lillas Pastia, made famous in Carmen’s Act I aria.

Colin Alexander has put in place the subtle lighting design of Paule Constable, including interesting gloomy scenes where the use of shadows is particularly effective.

Conductor Emmanual Joel-Hornak maintains a nice fast tempo with a strong Queensland Orchestra sometimes a little too fast for the soloists, who are physically hard-worked on stage above the pit. The chorus give a lusty sound that suits the drama, while the flamenco dancers add real flair.

— John Henningham
(Performance seen: Mon 29th October 2012)