‘Carmen’ a masterpiece
There was a gala atmosphere, combined with a sense of keen anticipation at the opening performance of Hawke’s Bay Opera’s production of Carmen by George Bizet, in the Hastings Municipal Theatre last evening.
In this turbulent story of jealousy and rivalry of two men for one woman, the strong cast was headed by well-known Napier singer Phillipa Reade in the title role. Showing complete mastery of the role Reade moved and acted with conviction, danced with immense poise and portrayed the complex cgaracter [character] of Carmen with authority her singing was superb, seamless throughout the range, completely controlled, with exemplary clarity of diction.
Tenor, Howard Spicer, in the role of the guard corporal Don Jose, generally portrayed the character well, particularly in the second act. While there were some fine moments in his singing there were times when his voice seemed strained in the upper register. This was similarly the case with bass Iosefa Enari as the toreador Escamillo. Although he was convincing in his imperious characterisation of the role.
Gaye Carrington-Smith was generally assured in the role of Micaela, with some fine singing, particularly in the third act in the smuggler’s hide-out. However there were some minor pitch problems at times in the upper register.
Jillian Anderton, as Fraquita, and Tracy Mellelieu, as Mercedes, friends of Carmen, and Hamish Morrison as Remendado and David Skinner as Dancairo, two of the smugglers, all proved to be outstanding in their supporting roles, complementing with each other ideally with lively relaxed performances and quality ensemble singing. The fine ensemble work was a feature of the whole production.
Alex Burns with his exemplary diction was very correct, even if a little rigid, in his role as guard lieutenant, Zuninga. Michael Hewitt as the guard corporal Morales, likewise sang clearly but his voice is rather nasal and lacks the colour needed for the role. Wayne Lister was well cast in his role as the ‘innkeeper Lillas Pastia and made this cameo part very much his own.
With such an experienced producer as Richard Campion, the quality of the production met all expectations, polished and highly competent in every detail. Nowhere was this more evident than in the movement of the adults’ and ‘children’s choruses in the first and fourth acts. The high quality work of choreographer Shirley Jarrett was much in evidence here too.
Keith Brazier’s set was imaginative and effective, extremely well-designed to complement the action in each act.
Props throughout were always appropriate and the balance and contrast of the costumes excellent, with those of Carmen particularly notable. The production was supported by extremely competent accompaniment from the 35-member orchestra a tribute to music director Alan Foster, leader Helen Tippler and dedicated detailed work by all the players.
This production thoroughly deserved the enthusiastic reception of a very large audience. It ran extremely smoothly, with only very minor blemishes, a credit to the very large group of unseen backstage staff as well as the front of house personnel. Carmen easily matches the high quality of previous productions and the Hawke’s Bay Opera Trust should be delighted. They will be assured of maximum audience support throughout the remainder of the four-night season. – Peter Williams.