Carmen delights at Millennium Forum

Foyle Opera Company delighted audiences at the Millennium Forum this weekend with two performances of their latest production, Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

In order to understand this piece the audience must first understand the world not only in which the opera is set but also the social norms of 1875 when it was written. Set in Seville in the nineteenth century, Carmen is a tale of love, war, jealousy and passion. At the time Bizet was writing Carmen much of Europe was battling to maintain it’s colonies and Spain was no different.  On top of this, many of the audience’s who attended operas such as Carmen were reasonably comfortably off and were not comfortable seeing the poverty which Bizet depicts in his opera, not to mention the sight of women smoking in public.

It is this setting in which we meet Micaëla in the main square in Seville searching for Don José, a soldier in the army. She is told that he will be arriving soon, not long after the bell of the cigarette factory tolls and the men of the city gather to greet the emerging factory girls, including the seductive gypsy woman Carmen. In time a love triangle (but in reality more of a love “square” develops as Don José, Michaëla, Carmen and Escamillo vie for each others affections, with tragic consequences.

This production from Foyle Opera Company, a mixture of seasoned professionals and keen amateurs was refreshing. While at times it could lapse into a little rough around the edges amateur performance, at other times it sparkled. Given the community based nature of Foyle Opera Company, where both professional and amateur are involved, it would be unfair to single out any one performance other than to say that the roles were well cast and those with greater experience made the biggest impression while some of those with less experience showed great promise.

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Review of Holding by Graham Norton

We probably all know Graham Norton for his quirky, sharp-witted, fast-paced chat show, some of us may even remember him for his role in Father Ted as the erratic and chaotic Fr. Noel Furthlong. To his list of many talents and achievements Norton has also added novelist with his debut novel Holding

Holding is set in Duneen where we find P J Collins, a hapless, overweight Garda who has never had much ambition and who people have never expected much from until a body is unearthed on a building site. It turns out that the body isn’t the only thing from the past that has been dug up as this one single event has a domino effect and uncovers the secrets of many of the villages residents.

For a debut novel, Norton’s characterisation is vivid and imaginative. Given his upbringing he has managed to capture the essence of small town rural Co. Cork masterfully and created characters which spring to life off the page and which we are all familiar with, be it the local Garda in the sleepy village with nothing much to do, of the alcoholic whose a shadow of their former self, of the housekeeper who makes a house a home with her cooking and fuss and gossip.

If you are planning on a late holiday in August, you would do worse than taking this gripping novel and welcome the residents of Duneen into your life