Date 14th April 2016
Society North Norfolk Chamber Opera
Venue Auden Theatre, Holt
Type of Production opera
Director Susanne Smith
Musical Director Susie Self


Author: Susan DuPont

Susie Self is always so professional and so very talented, with sparks from her finger-tips, and certainly she is a wonderful asset when you can persuade her to work with you. The reduced score worked excellently in the space of the Auden, and how superb that wonderful quintet that she assembled: the evening began on a high with the famous Prelude played exquisitely and with such mood and atmosphere.

I should congratulate the ‘Company’ on the strength of harmonies and vocals in all the big ensembles; think that the numbers reduced from last year which is strange for this opera. (Also the lack of male members!)

 The girls so well cast and how well sung with the notes all well in place: a serious and very sweet voiced Micaela from Melissa Sampson brought out all the feeling in her duet with Don Jose in Act 1 and again later in the opera with news of his mother, a very nice performance. Very animated and lively dance and song from Katalin Prentice (of expressive face) as Frasquita and Sky Carver as Mercedes, good gypsy mood with well-maintained characters, and the Card Trio was very well done and exciting. And to the Carmen of Elizabeth Wilmott, vocally so good, youth and figure good, working particularly well in that dramatic card trio with her friends; and bringing out the Spanish gypsy feel in her Seguidilla, and following on with the tavern scene’s rousing number before the seduction of Don Jose, a good performance but perhaps needing a little more fire on the first night.

 And to the men, a steady and reliable Zuniga from Ryan Devlin as the would-be lover of Carmen. Desmond Holmes, always so on note, vocally good and strong in all the harmonies, a backbone for the big company numbers, as Remendado he obviously enjoyed his moment as a smuggler; and, joined by Berni Alexandrou as Dancairo and the three gypsy girls, the quintet in the tavern was one of the high points of the evening with its strength and liveliness.

I read the programme notes and the rationale of transposing an octave and casting females in the male lead roles, and parallels elsewhere in opera, and certainly the notes and harmonies (although not familiar traditional) came over and were well performed, I could not feel for the moods throughout. Samantha Ellis sang with correctness and matched all in her work and notes throughout in the company, her Flower Song was good as the set piece, a good voice but the acting rather stiff, and how we missed the passion between Don Jose and Carmen as these two girls looked awkward as a couple. As Escamillo Maggi Warren-Heard had style and presence and, singing hard, looked ready as she went to fight the bull, but again not convincing opposite Carmen as such a difficult relationship for either she or Samantha to bring about in a sensual work such as Carmen. Certainly a different approach.