Great Witley’s Great Carmen




IT would surely be a myth to say Carmen has to be sung in French. The narrative and all its sentiments (which are exotic) are carried just as well when sung in English.

So in this production by Great Witley Operatic Society directed by the versatile director Andrew Rawle and equally versatile musical director Sue Black, there was great mastery of the narrative from all the characters and chorus, the English words being partly at least responsible in carrying this narrative.

The journey of Carmen herself sung by professional Sara Jones, was highly credible in her love of and subsequent rejection of Don Jose, sung by Robert Forbes. She is even assertive when she is being tied up by the officers half way through. (Quite good use of the rope, by the way). The chorus has been told to turn its back on significant events.

Throughout, the chorus too remained hearty in their input and at the end their apparent indifference to Don Jose’s murder of Carmen is particularly deft.

Everybody else  – Patricia Head as peasant girl Micaela, Mike Faulkner’s Escamillo, Jo Hargreaves as Frasquita and Eleanor Peberdy’s Mercedes – present their own characters in such a way that they cannot just be thought of as mere lesser characters to Carmen. They become, if anything, more integral. Paul Thompson is as usual, perfectly and memorably type-cast as Zuniga.

Though this was a semi-staged production, it was easy to imagine the scenery (cigarette factory in act one and mountains in act three for example) as it would be in fully staged productions. The backdrop of changing Spanish colours worked brilliantly. Minimalist but we do not need any more.

Officers and smugglers were as fabulously-outfitted as any ROH or New York Met production of this work. Do costume and Spanish culture need to be emphasised in this production? Probably not.