DSC09508NODA Review – Trevor Guest

Since 1952 GWOS has been synonymous with G & S productions but during the last few years emphasis has changed to increase their repertoire and include musical comedy (Namely Oklahoma and Fiddler on the Roof). This weeks production of the well known and popular opera Carmen was yet another change and one must applaud their commitment to change and versatility.

First night’s are notorious for producing unexpected problem’s but Thursday night’s performance held no such worry’s. There were no gremlin’s present. As expected, experienced singers took the leading roles. A newcomer to the Society Sara Jones, was excellent in the role of Carmen and I was delighted to see lovely Patricia Head back on stage playing (Micaela), and with Jo Hargreaves (Frasquita) and Eleanor Peberdy, (Mercedes) completed as fine a quartet of female performers you could wish for.

The principal male singers in the cast were not so accomplished as the ladies but Robert Forbes (Don Jose) has a fine voice and stage presence. Evergreen Paul Thompson (Zuniga) and charismatic Mike Faulkner (Escamillo) brought their experience to a receptive audience. The chorus and the orchestra under Musical Director Sue Black, marshalled the musical components into a fine production.


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.