MAYFLOWER YOUNG WRITERS: Carmen Review
Each week during our Mayflower Young Writers scheme, participants explore creative writing through workshops which will improve their confidence and skills as a writer. Last week, one of our young writers wrote a review for Welsh National Opera's Carmen. Read it here:
When you hear the word “opera”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think of a show that’s entirely in song, that is all in another language or that they are too long? They were my first thoughts before I went to see my first opera when I was 12. The performance running time: three hours, will always stand out to me. Now I’m 16, but something about that first experience made me fall in love with the operatic world, and since, I return every season.
Carmen. Whether you know the story or not, I can guarantee that you will have heard at least one of the pieces of music - I constantly thought: “So this is where this music is from!” Set in 1970 American, the story follows of a factory worker Carmen, played by Viriginie Verrez. After a fight between Carmen and one of the other workers, one of the soldiers Don José (Dimitri Pittas), is asked to take Carmen to prison but instead Carmen uses her charms and persuades Don José to let her free. José loves her. After she escapes, Carmen meets Escamillo (Phillip Rhodes), a Spanish Bullfighter and he too falls in love with her - I won’t spoil the plot or ending, but this complicated love triangle is ultimately Carmen’s downfall, all supported by a simplistic but powerful set designed by Leslie Travers and costumes by Gabrielle Dalton.
As I previously said, there are many common themes that might “put off” a person from seeing an opera. Not all are completely in song, conversations between Carmen and Don José/Escamillio were as regular a feature as the music, meaning that as an audience, we had the chance to see the characters clearly at their most vulnerable moments. Despite being set in America, Carmen is sung in French and despite speaking the language, I found it hard to follow at points, but don’t let this put you off! Opera Companies provide translations through surtitles (subtitles on the top of the stage), that allows you to easily track the lyrics and the dialogue whilst still enjoying the action on the stage.
Finally, yes: operas are long. I know that a three hour show can seem daunting but trust me, it goes quickly. In order to change sets and allow the singers on stage to have a pause, regular breaks and intervals are provided so you can digest the events and of course buy yourself an ice cream!
I can honestly say that this was my favourite opera I have ever seen. The characters, the music and the set, all created an immersive experience that made you connect with all the cast.
If you’re thinking about visiting an opera for the first time, Carmen is a great show to begin with and conveniently is returning to Mayflower Theatre on 19 March 2020.