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Your Reaction: What did you think of Bizet's Carmen?

Here's what the audience had to say about Barrie Kosky's new Royal Opera's production of Bizet's classic.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

7 February 2018 at 12.24pm | 36 Comments

Press reviews:
Times ★★★★
Londonist ★★★★
The Stage ★★★
Telegraph ★★★
Guardian ★★★
Independent ★★★
Arts Desk ★★★
Financial Times ★★
What's On Stage 

What did you think of Carmen?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

Carmen runs until 16 March 2018. Tickets are still available.

The production will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 6 March 2018. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

The production is supported by

And is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Yvonne and Bjarne Rieber, Alan Howard, Trifon and Despina Natsis, The ROH Young Philanthropists, and the Friends of Covent Garden.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

7 February 2018 at 12.24pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Barrie Kosky, Carmen, Production, review, your reaction

This article has 36 comments

  1. Vivienne Crossland responded on 7 February 2018 at 1:00pm Reply

    Hated all of it, couldn't wait for the interval which seemed an eternity to come, in order that I could walk out. Others didn't wait for the interval, but I am polite. I got home comfortably prior to the scheduled end of the performance. He hee :)

  2. David Croser responded on 7 February 2018 at 1:44pm Reply

    Hi Vivienne - I felt exactly like you at the interval but stayed and had a glass of wine in the interval instead. To judge by the crowded bar I was not alone. The second half was little better - although the chorus did remove their Halloween make up for their curtain call. Not a total waste of time then.

  3. Geoff responded on 7 February 2018 at 1:50pm Reply

    Thanks Vivienne, yes, this production is annoying and in an uninformative way.

    As this Carmen might herself say, what's the point (but you would have to have been trapped till the end to see why)?

  4. Clare responded on 7 February 2018 at 2:05pm Reply

    Fine orchestral playing but a conductor of Hrusa's quality deserved a better production than this for his house debut

    All those who have remarked on the "intelligent" and "witty" production must have been attending a performance in a parallel universe from the one at which I was present. I found the whole performance a tedious experience which was not alleviated by the quality of the singers who ranged from poor to only just adequate.I am not convinced that the restoration of all this previously unheard music does Bizet's reputation as an opera composer any favours. It has the strange effect of making Carmen feel more of a period piece than the traditional performing edition does. Tchaikovsky is reputed to have said that Carmen was the perfect opera. I am not sure that he would have had that opinion if he had seen and heard this version of it.

  5. Miriam responded on 8 February 2018 at 12:11pm Reply

    I was at the dress rehearsal last Saturday and hated the production, especially the irritating female narrator. I missed the dialogues and the action that should take place during them. This was the first time I have ever been bored during a performance of Carmen. I don't think the restoration of the discarded music was an improvement either.

    The dancing was good but that is not the most important thing in an opera, if I want dancing I go to the ballet.

    I had thought that after seeing the rehearsal I might go to the cinema screening if I liked it, but I shall definitely not be doing so and if the production is revived in future I shall not go to a performance, no matter who is in the cast.

  6. Elaine Beckett responded on 8 February 2018 at 3:40pm Reply

    I was also at the dress rehearsal. I have never seen Carmen before. Perhaps this helped? The musicianship is superb from all involved – design and choreography fantastic. Looking forward to the cinema screening on march 6th. Goryachova is unforgettable in this role. Loved every minute.

  7. John M. responded on 8 February 2018 at 4:11pm Reply

    What a dreary evening! I thought that interval was never going to come. The inclusion of the extra music just made it clear why it is usually left out. I did not find the singing to be anything more than adequate; I did not hear the wonderful voices some comments have mentioned. One always hopes that seeing an opera will give an extra insight, alerting one to something one had previously missed. Not on this occasion. The narrator’s intrusions sapped the action of any tension, with performers having to wait for her to finish. One was faced with a non-stop onslaught of movement, almost as if the director were afraid to let the music tell its own story. Hardly one single moment of stillness. The set was poor, serving no interpretive purpose as far as I could see - coupe-moi, brûle-moi - and too much of the action did little service to the opera. Having run around the mountains in stilettos, it was hardly surprising that Carmen turned up unsuitably dressed for the bull fight. But as Carmen’s own shrug at the end said, “So what?” Indeed. Quite a bit of booing at the end with a few cries of “Rubbish” in the stalls circle. Is this Carmen going to join the already fairly lengthy list of failures in recent years? Was there no one high up at the ROH who could have intervened, have said maybe that this really isn’t very good.

  8. Borech responded on 8 February 2018 at 6:26pm Reply

    It is all a question of taste, but I wonder if I saw the same production as some of those commentating above. The production was unquestionably innovative and not all the ideas worked well. I missed the Spanish context, only really available from some of the costumes.There was a lack of chemistry between Carmen and Don Jose.. However, there was some wonderfully energetic ensembles, with dancers adding to the colour and gaeity portrayed.
    I've seen plenty of convential Carmens, including the ROH's previous production. I've also seen some terrible turkeys at Covent Garden, recently, William Tell, Lucia and Onegin (the Opera) to name but three. It's good to see something quite different and well-thought out., for a change.
    I wonder whether the obvious difference between the Twitter responses ( approving and enthusiastic) and those in this thread, are age- related?
    ( Before anyone yells back, I am 66 and have attended opera for more than 50 years.)

  9. Elaine Beckett responded on 8 February 2018 at 10:14pm Reply

    So many operas are impossible to follow for those of us who hardly ever get to see them. I found the voice of the narrator engaging; dare I say it – helpful. Loved combo of dance, movement, operatic singing: refreshingly unexpected. The twist at the end was fun.

  10. Claudio responded on 8 February 2018 at 10:26pm Reply

    I didn't think t was as good - or as bad - as some comments suggest. I'm not sure whether a newcomer would have followed the story easily. The voiceover didn't work for me - but a better version might work well. (Recitative or spoken dialogue both seem hard work in 'Carmen'.)

    Goryachova has the basis of a really fine Carmen for me, but this production didn't offer her support. Meli worked for me - indeed, the production seemed to be based more around Jose than Carmen.

    Mkhitaryan sang well - but rather like Carmen, the character was poorly delineated. Smoriginas didn't have the swagger for me, but did have a cleaner insight into the character.

    The dancers worked for me (and this is opera!)

    As for the stairs - which reminded me of the Minghella 'Madama Butterfly' - they provided a lot of unnecessary noise that distracted from the music (and added extra tension about whether anybody would actually fall down them). Some good visual images but, sadly, at the expense of the music. The last scene - with the amazing train - was stunning. It was well-performed and looked wonderful, but it did come late in the day.

    All in all, I actually quite enjoyed it. When it worked well (Chanson Boheme), it was great; when it didn't (Habanera), it was a great disappointment. All in all, I'd say it needed not to try so hard.

  11. Stephen Jay-Taylor responded on 9 February 2018 at 1:54am Reply

    "Was there no one high up at the ROH who could have intervened"

    If only there was. Instead, Mariame Clement's projected production was scrapped, and this modish garbage brought in cheap and ready-made from Frankfurt, where it should have stayed.

  12. Susan Rogers responded on 9 February 2018 at 7:22am Reply

    Well, I loved this Carmen. I’ve found previous productions’ attempts to show it literally rather silly (all those bandito costumes and cave sets). So, yes, the narration is a little distracting, but it’s a pretty simple, familiar story of a girl, who has nothing but her beauty and sexual power and gets killed for using it. Thank you M. Kosky for energising the staging. And thank you, Kristin Mkhitaryan for glorious singing. And the ROH chorus, fabulous. And the dancers, mesmerising. And the costumes, innovative and fun.

  13. Lindy Weinreb responded on 10 February 2018 at 12:45am Reply

    I was at the dress rehearsal and loved every minute. It was exciting, innovative and energising. The dance sequences added delightful colour to the experience as with Barrie Kosky's 'The Nose' - thank you.

  14. John Yap responded on 10 February 2018 at 12:13pm Reply

    I am looking forward to seeing CARMEN next week. I loved all of Kosky’s Productions that I have seen in Berlin, Glyndebourne and here, ROH and it looks and sounds like it is going to be one that I will love. I have seen lots of traditional productions of CARMEN around the World and in recent years I got increasingly bored...even to the extend of questioning whether CARNEN is really that good an this Kosky’s production might well restore my appreciation and admiration of CARMEN. Hope so.

  15. Karen McCarthy responded on 10 February 2018 at 9:29pm Reply

    I am at this very moment on the train home after leaving in the interval. Some bits were ok but, I couldn't wait to leave.

  16. Zlatko Risteski responded on 11 February 2018 at 12:18am Reply

    The worst production ever. What a disrespect to Bizet. I took my son to his first opera and can you imagine what a scar he got this evening. Seville - was not there, have anyone seen the steps that big in Seville, gypsies dressed in office clothes, matador with pink socks without anything macho to show, practically whispering and three hours of inarticulate movements by everyone on the scene.
    Looking forward to take my son to see the REAL CARMEN in some local venue.
    Very embarrassing for ROH. I feel cheated.

  17. Alda responded on 11 February 2018 at 9:23am Reply

    How disappointed I was with the Musical-cabaret-circus we were presented last night, Sat 10 Feb, at the ROH! I didn’t like the stage set nor the innovative musical arrangement, not to mention the appearance of an out of context Gorilla! Goryachova and Mkhitaryan can sing but I was so distracted by the razzmatazz around them that couldn’t concentrate in their voices. Dancers were very good but I’d rather see them in a dedicated Dance production. I was indeed impressed by the versatile ROH chorus that saved the day.
    I walked out in the interval. On my way home, I was glad to catch on BBC3 part of L’Elisir d’amore with wonderful Pretty Yende and Matthew Polenzani transmitted from NY. Please bring them to London!

  18. Roger responded on 11 February 2018 at 10:47am Reply

    Interesting, that so many people say they went home, yet it was a full auditorium and almost no empty seats at all last night...
    I am surprised about the strong negative reaction, but it shows that the performance makes an effect.

    I had a lot of fun last night and it was a great performance, with a strong positive reaction from the audience (Feb 10 night). The music was fantastic, never saw both versions of the habanero next to each other.
    There was a lot of activity on the stage which was really well thought out, and definitely shows the talent of both the director and the choreographer, I did feel at times disconnecting from the performance though, when I felt the "activity" didn't serve any purpose.

    I felt slightly disappointed mainly because of the missed opportunity. I felt there was so much more in this production if the director had been a bit more daring.

    In the meanwhile, I am sure this production will be extremely popular, except perhaps with the most traditionalist audience. But again, the opera was always an extremely progressive genre, so any performance is doing something right if it creates a strong reaction and rattles the world a little...

    • amac responded on 12 February 2018 at 11:24am

      Well 10 people walked out of the stalls in front of me during the first half !

      I was standing in the stalls circle and at least 50% of standers (your actual opera fans !) did not return for the second half. The section I was in holds 12 and there were only 4 for the second half !

      I was a bit late getting back for the second half from the Clore - when crossing the central foyer one of the stewards asked "if" I was going back in - I would need to hurry as it was about to start !

  19. Anthony Ashworth responded on 11 February 2018 at 11:04am Reply

    Towards the end I was getting a little bored of the stairs and I could not understand the concept of the enormous train Carmen wore in act 4, it just seemed pointless. Singing wise Anett Fritsch was the star and the orchestra sound last night was exceptional. Production wise why does the ROH have to keep buying in the way out productions from Europe? don't we have any home grown talent? Whom I am sure would have welcomed the chance to stage a new production!

    • Gail Hirano responded on 14 February 2018 at 7:42pm

      I thought the train (an enormous triangle) represented the love triangle between Carmen, Don Jose and Esccamillo.

  20. klaus responded on 11 February 2018 at 11:22am Reply

    I swore I would never go again to Carmen as I cant stand it but this show has bowled me over - wonderful production , set , lighting , singing, conducting and orchestra - dont believe what the critics have said who have tried to put it down- dont miss it!!

    • Elaine Beckett responded on 14 February 2018 at 7:29pm

      Yes yes yes lets balance the books here - of course it was marvellous (and I only saw the dress rehearsal) incredible work from everyone involved - so the black train was pointless - so what? hours of brilliant singing dancing costumes choreography orchestra, dream of going again - maybe i'll get down there now and wait for someone to walk out and give me their ticket.

  21. John Lezemore responded on 11 February 2018 at 11:47am Reply

    I have never booed at ROH before. I felt sad to do it but had to . There was nothing of merit in this Carmen. I kept thinking of the lavish production that went before and the saying if it ain’t broke , don’t fix it. This was a violation! I feel sorry for the cast who had worked hard and angry with production and directors who have,frankly, abused their performers by placing them in this grim austerity .

  22. a mac responded on 11 February 2018 at 2:18pm Reply

    Well to answer the question not a lot!

    Mainly due to the fact that it was not a production of the opera Carmen but a song and dance show set to the music of Carmen. On its own terms – I guess that it was pretty well done although not particularly well sung apart from the lead role.

    Someone sitting behind me in the interval was explaining all the dance references (Fosse, Robbins etc) - most of which were lost on me and I dare say on 95% of the audience who in the most part had come to see an opera.

    Seems to me that this is just another repetition of error of the Robert Wilson Aida bought in from Brussels a few years ago.

    As a result they landed themselves with an un-revivable dud - judging by the no-shows and walkouts from the stalls any future revival would undoubtedly end up in being heavily discounted.

    I have seen a couple of operas directed by Barrie Kosky and thought them brilliant productions however in the end I just spent most of the evening thinking all this would be better directed at another opera.

  23. Liane Bierau responded on 11 February 2018 at 4:06pm Reply

    What happened to my comments? After I wrote them a few days ago, I saw them on the site and when I wanted to look at them again today, they had gone. They were not too flattering but I cannot imagine that this should have been the reason they were taken out.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 12 February 2018 at 9:50am

      Hi Liane,

      It appears that no comments by you have come through relating to this article (though thank you for your feedback on Tosca recently!)

      This may be an error - but please do resubmit and we'll be happy to publish them

      Best wishes


  24. Nick Peters responded on 11 February 2018 at 5:38pm Reply

    Klaus I could not agree with you more. I found it totally refreshing to hear and see such an innovative interpretation of Carmen. I have sat through more than my fair share of traditional productions of Carmen and I have grown tired of the stale and very cliched approaches adopted by most companies to this opera. This production had a very clear and innovative point of view that the production team and the performers clearly understood, fully embraced and delivered with real commitment. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I was engaged throughout. I would happily sit through this production again.

  25. Mark responded on 11 February 2018 at 5:41pm Reply

    Well what can I say. This was without equal the worst production I've ever seen at ROH, and there have been a few turkeys recently. I couldn't stand it anymore, so since I was end of row I upped and went just after the Toreadors song. I had to bite my tongue from shouting out during one set of applause that I thought it was rubbish and had I stayed to the end would have definitely have booed - which would have been a first, and also targeted at the wrong people.

    I just hope that there weren't many people there who was their first time attending because seeing that would have put them off for life. The set - well I feel almost embarrassed to call it that - could have been designed by a nursery class - and was completely out of place, plus so noisy. Whoever thought that such a large set of steps was good enough to represent Seville is beyond me - no wonder we needed a voiceover and surtitles to explain the setting.

    The costumes were a complete disgrace - another production where the effort seems to have been to pop to M&S and get some suits.

    The dancers were off putting and anachronistic for the piece of work and just plain distracting. I felt they were more than surplus to requirements. The orchestra and chorus were as usual good, but I think we have found the reason why the unused music hadn't seen the light of day before - it added nothing and removed all drama from the piece.

    Least said about the gorilla costume the better.

    Also, I get seats centrally where I can, but why oh why do you put on productions where performers are doing things right at the edge. I can understand it on an ensemble piece, not everyone can be plum centre, but there was no excuse last night, when the rest of the stage was empty. If the corner was supposed to be representing something then it was lost on me.

    I wish there was some way to get my money back, and I hope that things improve over the next few productions, otherwise ROH I'll be out.

  26. Barry Chaiken responded on 11 February 2018 at 11:02pm Reply

    Saw Carmen in Prague then in London just weeks apart, but although different, loved them both. This production was just awful. Where was the sexual tension between the characters? The chorus was a mass of singers with no role or identity. Cigar factory workers? Soldiers? Gypsies? This production could not care. The set forced you to close your eyes to imagine where it was taking place since it looked more like a school gym. Who scored the last basket? Oh, we are at the Royal Opera House and this is Carmen. We flew from NYC to see this production and visit a favorite hall. Time to take a Big Bus Tour for real entertainment.

  27. Dewi Hughes responded on 15 February 2018 at 12:16am Reply

    This was Carmen in the 21st Century and different from anything I have seen before.
    Barry Kosky's last production 'The Nose' was disgraceful but this Carmen was good - singing excellent especially Kristina Mkhitaryan, also acting and dancing and a superb orchestra. Some of the lighting could have been better and the costumes were disgraceful - definitely a lack of colour. With such an excellent Costume Department at the ROH why use Black and White from Frankfurt Opera. Will people go to see a black and white film at the cinema? This is the 21st century not the nineteenth.

  28. H Kennedy responded on 15 February 2018 at 12:35am Reply

    I couldn’t see the passion between Carmen and Don Jose at the start of their relationship. I found the set a bit of a distraction even though it was aesthetically pleasing and interesting. Overall the production lacked a flow and the exuberance and energy of other Carmens I’ve seen. Although Carmen is usually a great first opera, I wouldn’t recommend this production as a first opera visit.

  29. Mike R responded on 15 February 2018 at 11:50am Reply

    When I think of Carmen, I think of sensuality, energy, passion and Spain. I want to believe that Carmen would fall for me, even though I know she'd let me down. I want to feel sympathy, empathy even, for Don Jose - the guy who wasn't good enough to get the girl. I also want to be Escamillo, the dashing hero that every man would want to be.

    Didn't get any of that from this "alternative" performance. There was no energy, no excitement, no sensuality - I don't blame the performers, who I'm sure are very talented, it's the production that failed here. Even the incredible music which sets Carmen apart from so many other productions didn't engage me.

    I can't "unsee" this - I wish I could, but I now feel a strong urge to watch Carmen somewhere else to restore my faith.

  30. Michael responded on 16 February 2018 at 1:39am Reply

    I attended the performance on february 14.
    Most of you have commented on this new production. Love it or hate it I will agree with John Lezemore comment that the ROH had a lavish production of Carmen which was not that old and would have continue to attract the public when cast with great singers .
    The ROH has now a new production that they may revive once or maybe twice but that will look tired and passé quite fast.
    As a friend and a big opera fan I can only question the decision of the ROH has made to invest money to change productions that don't really need to be changed ie Il Trovatore, Ballo and now Carmen.
    Money that could of been invested in bringing operas that have not been presented at the ROH for many years.

    This beeing said i would like to comment on the fabulous singing of Goryachova and Mkhitaryan last wednesday night.
    Goryachova demonstrated that she is without a doubt one of the top 5 mezzo-sopranos in the world and hopefully de will have the oportunity to hear her often in the years to come in London.
    Mkhitaryan showed us on wednesday night that this is a soprano to watch very closely.

  31. Eric FIrkins responded on 17 February 2018 at 8:15am Reply

    I read all the other reviews before seeing it yesterday and went there with an open mind. The production focuses on the beauty and the attraction of Carmen and contrasts this against the naivety of Micaela. This makes the actionof Don Jose understandable.
    There are many very interesting ideas in this production that I loved. i thought that the ballet dancers leading the singers and chorus was innovative but I would have found a change in set more interesting rather than having the same flight of steps all the time. I felt concern for the dancers doing high kicks poised near the the top of the steps.
    I am very glad I saw such an interesting production.

  32. J.pringlr responded on 17 February 2018 at 9:07am Reply

    I enjoyed the production, yes it is different! Yes I do love the more traditional version but both are a joy, it was a matinee performance, the outcome a standing ovation from the audience! Just lose the gorilla, I can only think this a trademark of this company, as I saw no other relevance. All in all I had a lovely day

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