It is the planet’s most performed French cartoon, but the achievement of Bizet’s Carmen has always rested on its parade of predictable Spanish icons: Gypsies, Houston sexy sunshine, seduction, a bullfight. In Calixto Bieito’s 2012 production for English National Opera — currently in its next revival that the Coliseum — which Spain is General Franco’s instead of the eroticized landscape of mid-19th-century engravings, the sun beats down to an almost empty point and the only bull we see is that a significant horned signpost in shape.
Nevertheless, the tourist-snap principle continues. Rather than this corsets-and-cigarettes omnipresent elsewhere, Bieito joys in 70s references, from Gypsies — that could happen to be Top of the Pops backing dancers — into a little fleet of classic Mercedes sedans, seemingly the journey of choice to Franco-era smugglers.
And Carmen failed, after all, begin life in Paris’s Opera Comique, where frivolity has been invited. Still, … Read More