underpants aplenty in ENO’s ‘new’ (actually 13 year old) Carmen, but,
contrary to reputation, director Calixto Bieito seems unwilling to drop them. When
it gets down to the real meat and potatoes, only one todger is served up. To the
orchestral opening of the third act, a wafty, homoerotic dance solo suggests
the soldier in question can only be at peace in his fantasies. Well, if you've got
to stick a willy in Carmen, I suppose that's not a bad place to do
Their next task is to race round London sourcing props for Calixto Bieito's upcoming ENO Carmen as cheaply as possible. The team that returns to the Coliseum with
the most items for the least dosh wins.
Calixto Bieito's new Carmen is more than two weeks away but already over half the tickets are gone - making it a roaring success by ENO standards. The sad consequence of this unprecedented popularity is that cheap ticket deals may be thin on the ground.
Fortunately, there's still a way to bag a cheap(ish) advance seat, if you're quick. As readers Martin and Sarah have kindly pointed out, the only dynamic thing about ENO - their new pricing scheme - means that Monday to Thursday tickets at the back of the upper circle (no surtitles visible) are 'only' £25 before opening night.
OK, so that's not such a great deal compared with some of the discount codes we've seen over the last couple of years. But if you're not willing/able to queue up at TKTS on the day on the off chance of a bargain, it's a reliable way to get hold of a cheap ticket.
Bieito is currently busy with Forests at the Barbican, a terrifying (at least if you're in the front row) patchwork of Shakespeare, Beckett, Goya and Alan Titchmarsh. Worth a try, with good seats as little at £16 (or £12.80 for members). Need any more encouragement? The Daily Mail called it "state-subsidised bilingual bilge". Praise indeed.
Who is Carmen? A seething volcano of unfettered passions? An
independent woman with the courage to forge her own destiny? A projection of
male nympho fantasies? Or a whey-faced Berlin
housewife with the voice of an angel and two left feet?
This unfocussed new Carmen could have done with a Ravenhill – or indeed any decent dramatist – to kick it into shape. All the most hummable bits of Bizet’s opera are squeezed into a meandering new hour-long plot via a clunky English libretto, a bashed-up piano and an underutilised guitar. But nobody seems to have remembered that an audience needs a reason to care for the characters.
The evening kicked off with a squally but enthusiastic sing-song in the packed bar to the tune of L’amour est un oiseau rebelle. After a ten minute break for the audience to squeeze into the back room theatre and argue over who’d pinched whose reserved seat, the show finally got under way. In Rodula Gaitanou's update, Carmen lives in a garish hovel with escaped convict Escamillo and a gang of petty thieves, but falls for straight-laced bouncer Don Jose. She refuses to run away with him; he does her in.
The superimposed comedy wasn’t funny, and the cast’s mumbled attempts at spoken dialogue were simply inaudible. But the final one-on-one showdown between Carmen and Jose benefited from the intimate scale of the venue and the compelling conviction of the performers, Christina Gill and Christopher Diffey. More of this exploration of the emotional predicament of the protagonists and fewer cheap gags would have improved this effort no end.
The Royal Opera House is not usually the place to find a cut-price deal, but they've made an exception with a couple of special Carmen showings. For the performances on 18 and 24 June, all seats are reduced to £37.50 or less. On the top-price seats, this represents a discount of £150+ (!). Best value seats remaining would appear to be mid/rear amphitheatre (£15) and balcony boxes (£105 for 4).
There is a catch - the shows are being filmed for the first-ever 3D opera movie, and the position and size of the special cameras may restrict views to some extent.
It's also not the greatest production or the most star-spangled cast. But it is cheap.