Tuesday, May 15, 2012

REVIEW: Carmen by Opera Hong Kong

Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, Saturday May 12

When it was announced that Opera Hong Kong is doing Carmen again, I was in total disbelief. WHY? Why would the company want to do Carmen AGAIN? Time-Out magazine then wanted me to do a preview of Carmen, so I did a bit of research and found out that the French director Philippe Arlaud was directing it. I agreed to do the preview on the condition that it will be an interview with Arlaud and not Warren Mok. I have nothing against Warren Mok, it was just that I was personally more interested in Arlaud. Anyway, to cut the long story short, the schedule didn’t permit it and instead I wrote a review. Click HERE to see my review in Time-Out Hong Kong.

This Carmen directed by Arlaud has to be the worst Carmen I have ever seen… in fact it has to be the worst production of any professional opera company I have ever seen. Arlaud is very lucky that the Hong Kong audience was a polite bunch. If this production was performed in Spain, Italy or Germany, I will not be surprised if he gets booed off stage! Some of the problems of this production were so basic that I can’t imagine anybody with any theatrical experience was not able to see and correct it. One part that I almost flipped on my seat was in Act 3 during the final Micaela, Jose and Carmen scene. While Jose and Carmen were on stage left struggling, Micaela had to run from stage right to stage left and climb onto a two-foot high trunk just to sing! There was absolutely no motivation for her to do that and most probably one would not have noticed it except that she had difficulty climbing onto the trunk!

The set by Arlaud was another problem. It was totally amateurish. To put a revolving stage and use it as a scene changer is as amateur as it gets. And when Arlaud attempted something creative with the revolving stage just like when Carmen pretended to have escaped, the whole stage action was clumsy and again amateurish. What about the Act 3 set that looked by the scene was taking place under the sea? The lighting by Arlaud was again amateurish with general washes of colors that neither was atmospheric nor highlighted any particular action on stage. As if these inanities were not enough, then you get a costume designer (Andrea Uhmann) whose idea of Spain was to gather everything kitsch and commercial about it and slap them on the performers regardless of the situation and stature. The few pieces that was appropriate was the traja de luces of Escamillo, BUT even with that, the taleguilla was not properly buttoned up below the knee. As for the choreography, having dancers stamp their feet in rhythm is just not good enough to pass as flamenco.

At the end of the day, what truly saved this production was the singing. All 4 leads did a great job vocally.

An Opera in 4 acts, performed in French with Chinese and English surtitles
10-12 May 2012 Thu-Sat 19:30; 13 May Sun 14:30
Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Creative Team:
Producer: Warren Mok
Director/ Set/ Lighting Designer: Philippe Arlaud
Conductor: Benjamin Pionnier
Costume Designer: Andrea Uhmann
Chorus Director: Jimmy Chan
Shanghai Opera House Orchestra
Opera Hong Kong Chorus Opera
Hong Kong Children Chorus

Cast include:
Carmen: Rinat Shaham*/ Aurhelia Varak+
Don José: Jean Pierre Furlan*/ Chen Yong+
Micaela: Isabelle Cals*/ Yuki Ip+
Escamillo: Jean-Luc Ballestra*/ Albert Lim+
Zuniga: Jean-Marc Salzmann
Frasquita: Joyce Wong
Merzedes: Melody Sze
Morales: Sammy Chien
Dancairo: Albert Lim*/ Bryan Woo+
Remendado: Alex Tam

(*: 10-12 May 2012; +: 13 May)

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At May 15, 2012 at 6:36 PM , Blogger Meaghan said...

I love you're getting meaner in your reviews. I must have rubbed off on you... *evil laugh*

At May 15, 2012 at 7:46 PM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

Oh dear, was I mean? I was just very frustrated and disappointed! God knows I truly LOVE Opera Hong Kong, but for it to have such a bad production because some director didn't do its BASIC job is just very annoying. If it fails because the prdouction was experimental or doing some sort of conceptual staging, it would have been fine with me... in fact I would have been encouraging,BUT this was just plain ineptitude on the part of Philippe Arlaud. So sorry.


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