There are 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 it.
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.
Carmen – King’s Head Theatre, 10 April 2012
I keep returning to the Covent Garden of pub opera, the King's Head, even though the only worthwhile venture I’ve seen there so far has been Mark Ravenhill’s Coronation of Poppea.
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.