Pop-Up Opera’s Thought-Provoking Approach to La Tragédie de Carmen

30/09/2018

Bizet/Brook, La Tragédie de Carmen: Soloists of Pop-Up Opera / Berrak Dyer (musical director). Asylum Chapel, Peckham, London, 25.9.2018. (MB)

Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen (c) Chloe Latchmore

Cast:

Carmen – Chloe Latchmore
Don José – Satriya Krisna
Micaëla – Alice Privett
Escamillo – James Corrigan

Production:

Director – John Wilkie
Designs – Anna Bonomelli
Movement – Mark Ruddick

Few companies are so worthy of our support than Pop-Up Opera. Last time I reviewed one of their performances, they were giving a free-of-charge Mozart double-bill the morning after their props and equipment had been stolen from a van. Now they are offering Peter Brook’s barebones version of Carmen, as arranged by him, Marius Constant, and Jean-Claude Carrière. Not that director John Wilkie and his team are content to offer that ‘straight’; they approach it with the imagination and interrogation one would expect, if not always receive, of any repertoire work. There are losses, of course, and I am not entirely convinced that the updating to 1939 at the close of the Spanish Civil War fits quite so well with Brook’s version. Not only, however, has it made me think – and continue to think; there were on this first night, in Peckham’s wonderful Asylum Chapel, some fine performances to enjoy irrespective of such questions.

We have no chorus, just four principals; we have no orchestra, just a piano. The desire to recapture something of the work’s original opéra comique intimacy is a long-held one, quite valid. Even for the vast space of Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus, Simon Rattle recently spoke and worked in such terms, albeit with decidedly mixed results. At any rate, surely no one would really wish to substitute those dreadful recitatives for the dialogue now. Brook’s determination to return to Mérimée is furthered – trumped? – here by the staging. At the dawn of Franco’s fascist new world, Don José is a disgraced, traumatised soldier, blood on his mind and on his hands. Having killed the cabaret performer Carmen on the street, having thus accomplished something similar to what his former Nationalist forces have done to the country as a whole, he now relives the experience in a series of flash backs. Much is cut; the whole performance lasts for eighty minutes. Film projections of war and its aftermath essentially take the place of the chorus, so that a sense of the social is retained. We gain perhaps an even stronger sense of Fate, not only from Don José standpoint but also from the cards’ foretelling.

Carmen is thus not decentred, as one might have expected; even in Dmitri Tcherniakov’s brilliant rethinking for Aix, her initial decentring paradoxically gave new birth to as character rather than icon. She is rarely off stage and becomes perhaps more than ever a progenitor of that ultimate operatic femme fatale, Berg’s Lulu. Problems persist: is she merely a projection of male violence? Yet our sympathy is engaged, which is surely the crucial thing.

Chloe Latchmore’s performance here proved quite mesmerising, whether in vocal terms or stage-presence. Satriya Krisna, Alice Privett, and James Corrigan all proved deeply impressive, in both ‘traditional’ and ‘reimagined’ fashion. To be more than a caricature, Escamillo needs something. Here his return to war and parallel trauma certainly offered food for thought. Berrak Dyer’s musical direction from the piano proved duly heroic, offering a window onto what we might have heard, what we thought we remembered, as well as what we actually did. Which, in a way, is what La Tragédie de Carmen, both ‘in itself’ and in this further reinvention sought also to do.

Mark Berry

For more about Pop-Up Opera click here.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival at the Snape Maltings in June __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s 2019 30th Anniversary Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Clara Schumann Festival at St John’s Smith Square – 22 to 24 February 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires in 2019 – Largely Traditional __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! VENEZUELAN MUSICIAN GABRIELA MONTERO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Arthur Butterworth and David Jennings Premieres in Lancaster on 1 March __________________________________
  • NEW! Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream Ballet Gala Night on 7 April __________________________________
  • NEW! English Symphony Orchestra Bring Music from Wagner’s Epic Ring Cycle to the Swan Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! London To Hear Long-Overdue Revival of Parry’s Oratorio Judith in April __________________________________
  • NEW! Russian Ballet Icons Gala 31 March 2019 at the London Coliseum __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! Ik zeg: NU: I say now, now … an interview with Richard Causton __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! SOME OF SEEN AND HEARD’S REVIEWERS LOOK BACK AT 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month