23 February 2012

Carmen at Normansfield Theatre

If ever an event had "go to me" written all over it then it was this one.

Carmen is a great opera full of audience-friendly tunes, I had not been to the recently restored Victorian delight that is Normansfield Theatre before, and all the proceeds were for the charity that is based there, the Down’s Syndrome Association (Down's Syndrome takes its name from Dr John Langdon Down who established Normansfield Hospital).

So it came to pass that I went to my second opera of the year the day after the first one.

Arriving promptly (the internet and open data make catching buses so easy these days) I went downstairs to the temporary bar for a bottle of (sadly American) Budweiser. Even in the basement the building impressed with its period structure such as the decorated yet simple metal pillars, the sort that adorn railway stations across the country.

To add further interest there were a couple of large wooden models of ships and any boy, or any age, would be impressed by their level of detail and their scale.

Also impressive is the theatre itself.

The basic construction is like a school stage with a high platform and a flat hall filled with ordinary chairs.

The decoration is anything but ordinary and the hall is a richness of colour and detail. This tells you that something special is going to happen.

And it does.

The opening of Carmen reminds you just how tuneful the opera is as the overture plants tempting snippets of music that you know will be brought to fruition later.

The opera lives or dies on the person playing Carmen and to be a success she must both sing beautifully and convince you that she is a wild temptress who drives men crazy with desire for her. This Carmen comfortably accomplished both.

There were strengths and weaknesses elsewhere but the average performance was a high average and Carmen raised the overall score even higher.

I went expecting to enjoy the building and the music while putting up with the performance but that was just me being pessimistic and I delighted in all three. This was a jolly night out (despite all the on-stage drama) and one that I'll cherish.

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