Carmen Reviews – English National Opera ★★★★

English National Opera’s production of Carmen has opened at the London Coliseum – and reviews are coming in.

Jamie Manton returns to ENO to direct Calixto Bieito’s landmark production of Bizet’s sensual opera, exploring the complex relationships between the sexes at the end of Franco’s regime in Spain in the 1970s. 

Georges Bizet’s searing score is conducted by Kerem Hasan.

Ginger Costa-Jackson stars in the title role of Carmen, alongside Sean Panikkar as Don José, Nmon Ford as Escamillo, Matthew Durkan as Dancairo and Keel Watson as Zuniga. 

Carmen is playing at the London Coliseum until 24 February 2023.

Read reviews from the FT, Guardian, i News and more.

Book tickets to Carmen at the London Coliseum

Carmen reviews

The Guardian

"Vivid revival finds ENO on fighting form"

"With Bizet’s opera’s menace and casual cruelty to the fore, cracking performances from soloists and chorus alike ensure that this is a tense and atmospheric production"

"Calixto Bieito’s staging, first seen here in 2012, has become one of his most enduring at theatres worldwide, and with reason: the Catalan director’s penchant for shocks and violence is right at home in an opera with menace lurking behind every good tune."

"Returning as Don José, Sean Panikkar sounds a little lightweight to begin with but grows in vocal stature as his character disintegrates. He’s riveting at the end. Carrie-Ann Williams makes an impressive ENO debut as a late stand-in Micaëla, her top notes big and radiant, her softest passages slightly too quiet – as are Nmon Ford’s low notes as Escamillo, though he has a lithe swagger otherwise."

"But everything revolves around Carmen. Ginger Costa-Jackson, another ENO debutant, is magnetic."

Erica Jeal, The Guardian
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i News

"English National Opera’s revival is sleek but underpowered"

"Conductor Kerem Hasan’s Carmen is slow and careful – Bizet’s score straining against reins held tight throughout"

"Nasty, brutish, if by no means short, Calixto Bieito’s 2012 Carmen has become a surprising stalwart in English National Opera’s recent repertoire."

"It’s noisy and rough and exhilaratingly physical – or it was back when it was new. If this latest revival lacks the power of a knock-out punch it’s mostly down to conductor Kerem Hasan. His Carmen is sleek but slow, careful – Bizet’s score straining against reins held tight throughout."

"Tenor Sean Panikkar, star of the last revival, is back as Don Jose – petulant and insecure, a toxic lover who opens his mouth and charms you back every time. Nmon Ford’s charismatic Escamillo is glossy above the stave, but lacks heft at the bottom, a bullfighter who’s all cape and no sword. Ginger Costa-Jackson makes an impressive ENO debut in the title role."

Alexandra Coghlan, i News
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The Financial Times

"Red-hot revival with fiery singing"

"Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen first graced ENO’s stage more than a decade ago and has barely aged since. Bieito expunges any hint of picture-postcard Spain and the result is a contemporary, minimalist show that works without a hitch, now that his more interventionist ideas have fallen by the wayside."

"Carrie-Ann Williams, making her ENO debut, rose impressively to Micaëla’s aria and Nmon Ford brought flair to his suave, smiling Escamillo. With so much dialogue cut, the conductor, Kerem Hasan, has no trouble keeping the show on the move. The last scene is red hot, as it should be."

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
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The Times

"Bizet with extra dollops of sex and violence"

"Bieito’s more pretentious conceptual junk — the dour focus on the tacky, faked-for-tourists Spain of the Franco era — has largely been ditched. Instead, this revival’s director, Jamie Manton, has installed extra dollops of what this opera is basically about: macho posturing, female taunting and lashings of good old-fashioned sex and violence. There’s always an audience for that."

"You still get what everyone remembers about the Bieito staging... Manton, however, seems much more interested than Bieito was in building credible characters and doomed relationships, and this revival’s cast delivers handsomely in that respect. At the centre is a properly smouldering Carmen, the Sicilian-born Italian-American mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson, making her ENO debut, although she seems to have sung the role everywhere from Seattle to Mexico. She has one of those chesty, powerful, don’t-mess-with-me voices, and the demeanour to match: utterly in control of her various men, even when facing her death."

Richard Morrison, The Times
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The Stage

"Grab tickets while you still can"

"Shimmering production is a stunning testament to this company’s strengths"

"It is a male world that Ginger Costa-Jackson’s dynamic, fierce Carmen thinks she controls. Brandishing her brooding, rich mezzo and flashing top notes like daggers, she powers up everyone around her in her ENO debut. She is both musically and dramatically commanding from the word go, tossing her hair like a mane and using both her voice and her body to toy with whichever man is necessary to her needs."

"Nmon Ford is happier at the top of his voice than at the bass end, which slightly robs him of power, but he, too, is ideally keyed into the compelling vitality of the score and the production’s violence that, far from being a directional flourish, makes total theatrical sense"

David Benedict, The Stage
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📷 Main photo: ENO Carmen 2023, Sean Panikkar, Ginger Costa-Jackson. Photo by Adiam Yemane

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