Bizet: Carmen ***
English National Opera, 20th May 2015
Calixto Bieito’s Carmen is far removed from sun-drenched, picture postcard Seville. A bull and flamenco dresses make appearances, but these are nothing but illusions: the giant Osborne sherry company bull that looms over Act III is a silhouette, spectacularly collapsed and dismantled in the prelude to the final act; the flamenco dresses are donned by Frasquita and Mercédès to fool the customs officers. The Catalan director updates the action to the final years of Franco’s dictatorship and in Joan Anton Rechi’s revival, the results are often gritty and fierce, if unlikely to do anything for the Spanish tourist trade.
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