Review: Carmen on Sydney Harbour

reviews Mar 28, 2017
Image: Prudence Upton for Opera Australia

“Will you fall for her sultry Habanera? Definitely.”

I was intrigued by this bold slogan for Carmen, Handa Opera’s cultural event of 2017, and even the dismal weather couldn’t dampen my desire to experience Sydney’s must-see event for April.

So, rain ponchos at the ready and tickets in hand, a group of us headed to the dress rehearsal on Wednesday. Picturesque views of the Sydney skyline were obstructed by dubious weather, but heck, it’s not everyday that you get to see something so visual, so stunning and so exuberant outdoors.

Carmen is an operatic tragedy, in which a seductive gypsy whisks a law-abiding military man, Don José, into a dangerous fate where he chooses Carmen over his career, his morals and his betrothed. But Carmen is a wild spirit who cannot be tamed, and so tragedy follows.

Image: Prudence Upton for Opera Australia

This Opera Australia production shifts the action forward to 1950s Spain, post-civil war, which allows an update to costume styles (now featuring silver-screen-inspired gowns, Franco-era military garb and tight-fitting pants with suspenders) and the use of Spain’s iconic bull outlined in a massive neon light in the background. Heavy themes involving patriarchal society, corruption and betrayal leave you contemplative well after the show ends, even as the musical numbers uplift and electrify.

Carmen is a spectacular production featuring amazing views and glamorous outfits. The choreography is dazzling too and the fireworks epitomise what Handa Opera (and Carmen!) is all about— beauty, extravagance and daring. The pivotal themes are confronting at times and will leave you thinking. But one thing’s for sure — you will fall for Carmen’s sultry Habanera, whether you like it or not.

Image: Hamilton Lund for Opera Australia