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  • Fiona Prior

Carmen - Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

Bizet’s Carmen

Petticoat flouncing is a dying art. To truly flounce a petticoat with authenticity one needs to involve the flashing of eyes and the flicking of head; a heaving, ample bosom overflowing its deep cleavage while a shapely foot is stamped. All these elements must be delivered in a seamless manner and with such sultry and targeted passion that the recipient loses his soul as swiftly as an unexpected dagger to the heart.

Nobody flounces petticoat like Carmen. The other gypsy girls aren’t bad but it is Carmen alone who can turn the head of a dedicated soldier and loving son so completely that he will throw away his life for continuing passion with said temptress. Bad life decision Don José but who are we to judge a man who has been smited by the bewitching allure of Carmen.

Is such an old tale (Carmen premiered in 1875) incongruous in the modern world? I would not discount the power of passion so quickly, for even in the 21st century it can destroy careers and lives, though possibly the not so subtle illusions to Carmen's animal attraction having a similarly dangerous nature (and fate) to that of the torro/bull in this opera would be seen as a little off-colour were it written in the present day. Still, Bizet seemed to hold his anti-heroine in as much affection as do we, and even though its planned premiere in 1873 was abandoned (the story of Carmen considered far too racy for public consumption), it has continued to captivate audiences for many, many years.

Handa Opera’s incarnation of Carmen over our world famous Sydney Harbour presents all the torture of unrequited love and unfulfilled animal lust an audience expects. Conductor Brian Castles-Onion delivers the well-known and magnificent score from what can only be a challenged, out-door location with ear pleasing drama. Josè Maria Lo Monaco and Andeka Gorrotxategi as the doomed Carmen and Don José are convincing in their opportunism, lust and longing. Director Gale Edwards ramps up the frenzy of this tawdry tale by setting it in Franco-era Spain with bored soldiers and black markets, hunger and violence.

A magnificent night.

Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquaries Point

Until 23 April.

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