AUDIENCES at the Cattle Ring in Salisbury Market were treated to a remarkable productions of Carmen by a stunning company of young singers when Winterbourne Opera took over the space.
The company, which usually performs in the Tithe Barn at Winterbourne Dauntsey, was formed in 2001 following a successful performance of The Magic Flute by the Teenage Classical Players. It has gone from strength to strength and after last summer’s production the committee chose Carmen for the 2013 production. The challenge was to find a suitable venue, and one of the members suggested the foyer of the Cattle Market on the Netherhampton road south of the city. When director Ben Occhipinti visited the atrium he was underwhelmed, and asked what was through the doors. Opening them to see the larger of two cattle rings was a revelation – the ideal place to stage a story about Spanish heat and passion and bullfighting.
The setting inspired not only his very energetic direction but also the cast, whose ages ranged from ten to 60+, using the entire space to bring the circular audience into the action.
There wasn’t one moment when the performances were anything less than totally convincing, bringing a raw reality that is so often missing from Bizet’s “entry level” opera productions.
The central roles were played by three young singers with huge potential and charisma. Helen Bruce’s free spirited gypsy Carmen was terrifyingly sensual, with Swedish Andreas Backlund’s ringing tenor exemplifying the anguish of the young soldier in love with the sort of woman he never thought he could have.
The swaggering toreador Escamillo needs palpable chutzpah and Jan Capinski magnetised the cast and the audience. What a voice!
Local favourite Jessica Broad was the poignantly faithful Micaela and there were powerful performances from the other principals, as well as from the chorus.
The orchestra, conducted by Kit Hobkirk, used Jonathan Lyness’s reduction made for Iford Opera, giving full voice to the very familiar and rhythmic score.
It was a really wonderful experience, and congratulations to all. Next year the company is invited back, and the chosen opera is Gounod’s Faust.