Many congratulatons to Midland Opera for having pulled itself up by its bootstraps over a couple of years, effecting major changes, and making great strides to re-establishing itself in the position it held for decades as one of the region’s great amateur companies.
MO’s current production of Carmen is lively and imaginative, refreshingly staged by a talented young directorial team, and graced with a chorus full of vigour and character.
Artistic director Elisa Amesbury moves her characters purposefully and subtly across Chloe Gamby’s brilliantly effective stage-setting, permanent through all four acts, but with such telling changes of detail. Lighting design is unattributed, but makes an atmospheric contribution throughout.
And the Queen’s Park Sinfonia-derived orchestra delivers Bizet’s score magnificently in Eric Wetherell’s specially-reduced orchestration, though some of the big moments do cry out for full strings. Phil Ypres-Smith conducts with loving enthusiasm, though stage and pit are not always together.
Principal roles are somewhat varied in their success. Rachel Skinner gives a vocally appealing portrayal of Micaela, Don Jose’s village sweetheart. Jose himself, duped and ultimately vengeful, is efficiently sung by Mark Ellse, as is his love-rival, the toreador Escamillo played by John Kiefert. But both of them lack the animal charisma which would have captured the capricious heart of Carmen.
But in the title role we have a tremendous performance and characterisation from Lorraine Payne. Her body-language is sexy and irresistible (her foot movements are lascivious in themselves), her spoken delivery of a rather stilted English translation is impassioned, and the quality of her singing is something which would grace the professional stage.
Running time: Three hours. Until Saturday.