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Russian State Opera's triumphant Carmen

Carmen, Belgrade Theatre, August 30 only.

Composer Georges Bizet died at the age of 37, still thinking his triumphant opera Carmen was a box office failure.

Some 140 years later, Carmen is still in almost continuous production by companies all over the world.

On Thursday (Aug 30) at the Belgrade Theatre, the Russian State Opera offered their version of the classic story of the seductive gypsy who drives a naive soldier wild with desire, persuading him to abandon his regiment and his childhood sweetheart.

The touring company sang in French accompanied by their 30-piece orchestra, whose percussion and double bass actually share the stage.

I must admit I would have liked a guitar on occasions - not that Bizet chose to include one. But we did have the sound of castanets and some powerful singing from mezzo soprano Liubov Dobrynina (Carmen) followed by lovelorn soprano Alina Polevaya (Michaela) who received a very warm reception for her beautiful plea to Rushan Shalbekov (Don Jose) to return to his dying mother.

The duets between Carmen and Don Jose are memorable although perhaps not always as fiesty as I would have liked, even as they arrive at their inevitable destination.

It's the bullfighter Escamillo (played by Pavel Kriuchko) who is left to flourish the pride and passion of Seville as he prances across the stage followed by a chorus of admirers, only one of which can capture his heart.

It's good to have English sub-titles illuminated above the stage for audiences unfamiliar with the story - although it can be distracting at times.

I was sitting in the circle for this production and couldn't help feeling the orchestra would have sounded better in the stalls.

It will be interesting to see how this accomplished company tackles La Traviata - another one night stand on August 31 - this time switching to Italian.

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