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Carmen at Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

Opera International is presently touring the UK and Ireland, visiting places that rarely get an opportunity to see live opera, using singers and orchestra from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, under the direction of Ellen Kent.

CarmenHer production of Bizet’s Carmen is solidly traditional, and therefore ideal for opera “newbies”, especially as there are surtitles in English, enabling everyone to understand what is happening, unless you happen to have purchased seats in the rear half of the stalls at Brighton’s Theatre Royal, where they were hidden by the ‘shelf’ of the dress circle!

Katerina Timbaliuk was very impressive in the title role. Not only did she have an expressive mezzo, she was a true singing-actor, able to convince in the role, and showing us the motivation behind her physicality. She looked like Carmen – very sultry – and lifted the production whenever she was singing.

Carmen’s friends, Mercedes and Frasquita, Liudmila Revutscaia and Anastasia Blokha, also impressed, the third act “card” trio being one of the highlights of the evening.

The smuggler Dancairo (Vitali Cebotari) was by far the best of the male singers, possessing a rich baritone as well as convincing acting skills and the tenor Ruslan Pacatovici as Remendado was suitably youthful. The five singers mentioned so far provided the Act Two centrepiece, the horrendously difficult quintet, which was performed with aplomb and justly applauded not only by the capacity audience, but also by the conductor, Vasyl Vasylenko, who marshalled his forces beautifully clearly but with the minimum of effort, a master class in conducting an opera.

Sorin Lupu was a very mature Don Jose, Alyona Kistenyova, his sister Micaela and Racovita Petru the bullfighter Escamillo, clearly vocally very ‘out of sorts’: luckily this is surprisingly a minor role.

The twenty-strong young chorus (chorus master Victor Donos) was superb – crystal clear diction and always in role, but never over-acting! They were joined by dancers, supernumeraries and a non-singing children’s chorus to provide a colourful spectacle.

The massive single set (designer not credited) “evoking the stunning architecture of Seville and its main square” also had to serve as the backdrop to Lillas Pastia’s bar and the smugglers’ hideout in the mountains, which may have confused those who did not know the opera, which, to Ellen Kent and Opera International’s credit, was probably many of the audience!

The company continues its tour until the beginning of May, visiting many more centres including ATG Theatres (where ‘price promise’ tickets can be obtained for as little as £13) in London (Richmond and Wimbledon) as well as further afield – eg Woking, Sunderland, Manchester.

As an introduction to opera, recommended, but do make sure you can see the surtitles/simultaneous translation!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

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

Starring mezzo soprano Katerina Timbaliuk from the Odessa Opera and the well-known Romanian tenor Sorin Lupu, together with celebrated Ukrainian mezzo soprano Irina Sproglis*.

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. Please note: some seats may have a restricted view of the surtitles. Please check when booking tickets. All information is correct at time of release.
*Cast subject to Change

New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Sat 12 Mar 2022

Richmond Theatre
Mon 14 Mar 2022

The Alexandra, Birmingham
Thu 17 Mar 2022

New Wimbledon Theatre
Thu 31 Mar 2022

Sunderland Empire
Wed 6 Apr 2022

Opera House Manchester
Fri 8 Apr 2022

New Theatre Oxford
Sat 16 Apr 2022

Princess Theatre, Torquay
Wed 20 Apr 2022

Edinburgh Playhouse
Fri 29 Apr 2022

Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent
Thu 5 May 2022


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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