Review: Revival of Bieito’s Carmen at the Coliseum

Thursday, 6th February 2020 — By Michael White


Justina Gringyté as Carmen. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

ROUGH sex, nudity, fellatio, urination…they’re the checklist for an average opera staging by Calixto Bieito, and you tick them off, one followed by another, in his 2012 Carmen which is back at ENO and as un-pretty as it was before.

But that said, by Bieito’s stan­dards it’s a relatively unprovoca­tive affair; and lack of prettiness isn’t the problem. Lack of genuine dramatic tension and poor cast­ing are the problems.

And the casting is seriously adrift. Justina Gringyté, the Lithuanian mezzo in the title role, is vocally attractive with a darkly curdled and poten­tially exciting sound. But her attempts at sultry Latin sexuality are awkward and don’t work.

The Don José is thin of voice, the Micaëla shrill. The Escamillo has the bullfighting machismo of an Oxbridge choral scholar. And the lesser roles are unremarkable.

Good things? Valentina Peleggi conducts well, with a sense of pace; and ENO’s strong chorus do a fine job at the bullring. But it’s not enough to make the show a must-see.

Runs to February 27, 7.30pm. London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES, 020 7845 9300,

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