Wednesday, 24 October 2007

More about that dodgy ENO Carmen

My review of ENO's notorious Carmen is now up on line (on the Sky Arts website). In short, it's been panned by pretty much everyone.

Now, if you ask any critic, they'll tell you that they don't enjoy writing bad reviews. This is rubbish. They love writing bad reviews. It's much more fun.

For example... There is only about one way to say Alice Coote has a lovely, rich, well-controlled mezzo. But there are loads of ways to describe her curious posture on stage. An East German swimmer waiting for the starting-gun. A Dutch tennis player receiving serve. A drunk HR woman at the office Christmas party about to stage-whisper to you that her husband has left her. A circus mime artist pretending to shift a large wardrobe. See? Much more entertaining.

The intention here isn't to get at Alice C - I thought she sang really well, and if her Carmen came across as passionless, that was mainly down to the direction. Neither is the intention to get at Sally Potter's direction (though I did think it was a bit clueless at times: Why CCTV stop after Act I? Why dog get biggest round of applause of night? Why suddenly jump-cut to Spain? Why children wearing white Elvis wedding stuff? Why whizzy streetdance over wary, nervous music at start of Act III? Why seven-foot-tall transvestites? Why no dialogue? Why Carmen's entrance so flat? Why my packet of crisps at the interval more exciting than opera? etc. If I'd paid 140 quid for two posh seats for all that, I'd be hopping mad.)

I'm just making the point that, whatever they say, critics absolutely love productions such as this: ones that take risks and then fail. When they meet up with each other at some record industry bash, what will they be talking about over the glass of complimentary chilled white, poured by their Polish post doc waitress? ENO's fine Magic Flute? ROH's Elisir d'amore? Nope, they'll all slagging off Sally Potter, with a few rolls of the eyes, and loving every minute of it. Nobody loves a turkey, but everyone loves talking about it.

It was with this in mind that I told my friend Jo, who has tickets for tonight, to go along, and not to sell them on eBay. (Anyway, she'd be lucky to get a fiver for them.) Go expecting the worst, I said, and you might enjoy it.

Anyway, Bizet's music is robust enough to make it an evening well spent - you don't have to look at the stage. You can always close your eyes or read the surtitles or simply gaze around to see if there's anyone famous or with an amusing combover sitting nearby. But if you do watch the stage action closely, you'll come away with a dinner-party conversation to last you years.

And you might even think up a witty new way to describe Alice Coote's posture.

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