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.