“Carmen Jones”

Royal Festival Hall, London • 4 August 2007 • 7:30pm
Oscar Hammerstein, II (1943). Music by Georges Bizet.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, John Rigby. Director: Jude Kelly. With Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi (Carmen Jones), Divine Harrison (Joe [understudy]), Sherry Boone (Cindy Lou), Rodney Clarke (Husky Miller)…

This was advertised as a “fully staged” production of Carmen Jones, which gave a misleading representation of the show. Since the orchestra is in a shallow pit built in the middle of the stage, there is only limited space around it for the singers to “move” around it, surrounded by some minimal, static scenery.

Bizet’s music is played beautifully by the RPO (which alternates in the pit with the Philharmonia). But that’s about as far as the list of good points goes, except maybe for the very good performance of Sherry Boone as Cindy Lou.

About everything else is underwhelming: appalling acoustics, a cryptic directorial concept, hugely uneven performances… Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi is an acceptable Carmen, but the quality of her voice doesn’t quite compare with her stunning good looks. Unfortunately, Divine Harrison, doesn’t have the sufficient operatic training to tackle the difficult part of Joe. And the staging badly lacks inspiration.

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