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Ellen Kent's Carmen

Ellen Kent's Carmen

Senbla presents Opera International's award winning Ellen Kent Production with international soloists, highly praised chorus and full orchestra - Bizet's CARMEN.

An evening of passion, sexual jealousy, death and unforgettable arias.

This dazzling production with orchestra features Bizet’s unforgettable melodies including The Toreador’s Song, Carmen’s enticing Habanera, and Don José’s lyrical Flower Song in a setting evoking the stunning architecture of Seville and its main square with Roman and Moorish influences.

Sung in French with English surtitles.

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Our review on Ellen Kent's Carmen

Ellen Kent's Carmen - Opera House, Manchester - Thursday 11th January 2024 by Lizzie Johnston

Our Rating

Opera has returned to Manchester, this time with productions from director, Ellen Kent and the auditorium filled with opera lovers alike. Tonight’s showing was Carmen, the well known and well loved opera by Bizet and having seen Carmen before, but one with a modern twist, I was eager to watch a production which felt classic and traditional.

It’s not a bad way to spend a cold, January evening by embracing culture and enjoying a classic performing arts form. Particularly when the story is set in sunny Seville, Spain. Carmen tells the story of a hopeless soldier who is seduced by a fiery gypsy woman and it follows their love affair over the course of several months, and many ups and downs. The plot itself is a simple, yet dramatic one full of love and lust - and knowing this makes an opera performed in French much easier to follow!

Mezzo-Soprano, Natalia Matveeva (Carmen, Madama Butterfly), took to the stage as gypsy girl Carmen. A beautiful vocalist who sang the repertoire like it was a breeze. Don Jose was sang by Tenor, David Sumbadze (La Traviata, Rigoletto, La Boheme), who fought for Carmen’s love against Iurie Gisca’s (La Boheme, Pagliacci, Carmen) Escamillo - something better know for as the Toreador.

Ellen Kent’s production seemed to have a more traditional stand-and-sing approach, rather than a focus on the acting, however the audience still enjoyed the drama of the opera through the performer’s vocal abilities. As Carmen, Matveeva moved around the stage in a flirtatious manner presenting herself as strong-willed and strong-minded, a great opposite for Don Jose who can across as having a softer, more romantic demeanour. Whereas Carmen’s attitudes were a perfect companion to the confidence of Escamillo, this highlighted the difference between the two and showed the tension within the love triangle.

The production was non-fussy with the stage set with a central door at the back, which acted as the main entrance, and walls which almost looked like the outside of a colosseum curving around the stage. This worked as the cigarette factory at the beginning and even when the story had moved to the bullring at the end. The costumes were exactly what you’d expect from the story, long following dresses partnered with corset tops for the gypsy girls and tradition Spanish outfits for the matedors. 

The opera itself is set in four acts, which at first sounds long but with the three intervals and the fast paced score, it keeps you engaged and the time flies by. Bizet’s score is fantastic, with songs anybody could recognise despite whether they are an opera fan. Conducted by Vastl Vasylenko, the orchestra played magnificently throughout working beautifully with the performers on stage to deliver a classic opera experience.

A standout moment happened at the end of the performance when the full company took to the stage to sing the Ukrainian national anthem in what was a heart warming moment met with a roar of applause. The passion and talent that the performers have is brilliant, and it was a great way to wrap up the show.

Carmen itself is the perfect opera for newbies and dedicated opera fans alike, with a recognisable score and toe-tapping songs. Ellen Kent’s production delivered everything you’d expect from a traditional rendition, giving the audience an experience that is entertaining and classic.


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