Date 21st May 2015
Society PGS Theatre Productions
Venue Devonport Playhouse
Type of Production Opera
Director : Alan Spencer
Musical Director Jane Warwick
Choreographer Alan Spencer


Author: Michael Simpson

It made me realise how much we had been starved of opera lately in Plymouth with the demise of opera South West, however this was remedied by the company’s excellent production. From the overture onwards this was an outstanding achievement by all concerned. Helen Haviland as Carmen gave a wonderful performance as the gypsy girl bringing out the manipulative side of the character to great effect. Her singing was superb, marvellous breath control and much feeling. Don Jose was magnificently acted and sung by   professional tenor Anando Mukerjee, this part gave full range to his fine Italianate voice, obviously a part well known to him, his strength of feeling towards Carmen was palpable and in the end destroys her.

Ray Gilley played Escamillo with great assuredness having sung many operatic roles his professionalism was paramount. Peter Clement as Zuniga again made the part his own, injecting the comedy with lightness of touch which comes with experience.

Kim Willcocks and Lindy Stephens sang the roles of Frasquita and Mercedes two gypsy girls with excellent characterization and Bianca Phillips as Micaela was another soprano who sang and acted with feeling. The two smugglers Le Dancaire and Le Remendado were all played by Keith Sparrow and Geoff Pope all the principles handled their individual roles with alacrity and I know the rehearsals were long and intense but it paid off by the appreciation shown by the audience. From the beginning, dance excelled and during the overture the dancers performed with great precision and flair as well as during the course of the opera.

Their costumes were stunning especially the long black dresses, black wigs with red flowers. All the costumes were in period and beautifully presented. I must also mention the amazing set constructed and designed by Andy Martin. Just one set but with subtle changes we were transported to the smugglers lair, Spanish village and the bull ring, excellently done.

Lighting also by Mr Martin was also very effective and sound was well controlled. The 14 piece orchestra under the baton of Jane Warwick was beautifully controlled and the chorus were enthusiastic in this new venture. Next year the company returns to the Gilbert and Sullivan canon but their foray into grand opera has been very successful and long may their divergence into other genre continue. This production was worthy of the West End. Well done to all concerned.