By Georges Bizet

8th, 9th, 11th, 12th July 2003
York Theatre Royal

The premiere of Carmen took place on the same day that Bizet was presented with the Legion d’Honneur, Bizet himself died only three months later, when Carmen was still considered an embarrassing, and debauched, failure. He was only 36 years old, one year older than Mozart had been at his death. Carmen subsequently became one of the world’s most popular operas, and most people know at least some of the tunes Bizet composed for it.

The story, based on one by Prosper Merimee, concerns the eponymous Carmen, a beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper. Careless with her lovers, she is responsible for the downfall of many men. She woos the corporal Don José, leading him to mutiny against his superior. His infatuation causes him to join a band of smugglers, of which Carmen is a member. He is happy with Carmen for a brief period, but is driven to madness when she turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo. At the moment of Escamillo’s triumph in the bull-ring, Jose stabs Carmen to death in despair.



Clive Goodhead


Emily Smith

Don José

Adrian Stone-Holmes


John Soper


Patricia Casement


Julia Ledger


Kylie Bradburn

Lillas Pastia

Christopher Broom


Ian Thomson-Smith


Kevin Ormond


David Reston


Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Clive Marshall


Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper



‘Carmen, York Opera’ – Evening Press, Wednesday, July 9, 2003.

The critic torn between two gorgeous gals, in this case Emma Kirby at the York Early Music Festival and Carmen, throws himself on the mercy of his editor’s decision. The choice this time fell on the lady of Spain, mainly because she is in town all week.

Clive Marshall’s production of Bizet’s classic little shocker is an excellent team show. It needs to be: counting the children who are very well drilled there are virtually 100 in this cast. It comes most vividly to life when the chorus is aroused as, for example, when the ladies are stirred to anger by the antics of the strutting Lieutenant Zuniga.

The opening of the tavern scene is not a homely cabaret with a couple of gypsy dancers but a massed twirl straight out of a middle-eastern harem. There is plenty of raucous rejoicing outside the bull-ring, heightening the contrast with the tawdry tiff that leads to Carmen’s death. Patricia Casement, whose operatic skills have developed steadily over the years, is well and truly ready for the mantle of Carmen, which she assumes with a firm mezzo that is beautifully in place right from her opening Habanera. There is probably room for a touch more earthiness, a little more hardness in her approach to a Don José who is always going to be putty in her hands. But this is an impressive achievement.

Her José, making his operatic debut, is Adrian Stone-Holmes. There were understandable nerves in his early appearances yesterday: he vacillated wildly between the heroic and the wimpish. When he let himself go after the interval, his tuning became much more secure.

The contrast with Emily Smith’s assured Micaëla in Act One was particularly telling. The musicality of her phrasing, both here and in her Act Three aria – always a crowd-pleaser (with telling horns here) – was a constant joy. She was the down-home country girl to a T.

Clive Goodhead’s firm Morales, the lively pairing of Julia Ledger and Kylie Bradburn as Frasquita and Mercédès, and Ian Thomson-Smith’s proud Escamillo, are all vital cogs in the machine. The smugglers could afford to milk more from the comedy Bizet intended for them. Despite some early longeurs, Alasdair Jamieson kept a firm grip on his orchestra, who balanced the singers especially well in Act Three. A spirited evening that deserves to pull the crowds.

Martin Dreyer

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