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Chisinau fields a full-blooded chorus too, which on form -- not so much in Carmen (Act 3 apart) as in Aida or Turandot -- can galvanise a whole performance. Production values, a bit ropy and half-cock in the early days of touring, are improving. Moldovan designer Felix Bessonov's striking sets for their new Carmen, with their subtle gradations of Sevillan afternoon shadow -- it looked remarkably like a verdant Extremadura -- and with an effective starlit night in Act 3 merging into pinky dawn from lighting director Olga Martovich, rival in quality their recent Cavalleria Rusticana, and even Butterfly, which was, deservedly, a sell-out triumph.

Felix Bessonov, set designer for Chisinau National Opera's 'Carmen'

I liked the costumes here : guards in brown-blue; the women emphasing red and white (with Carmen in almost Escorial-quality red for Act IV); the dancers, red and black -- except that there is a classic error : not only are the soldiers' outfits immaculate, but the cigarette girls, too, flounce out from a day's sweaty factory work in pristine flamenco dresses. With its cosily folksy echoes of East European costume, it looks gorgeous but faintly ludicrous. The Act I set includes a large factory sign that proclaims 'Tabacos'. Well, ok. The bull ring scene looks superb, as long as Carmen doesn't walk into it, when the fine Romanesque arch visibly wobbles, diminishing tension at a key moment. Despite the demands of touring, this kind of technical hitch (there was one in Turandot too, when a hoist ritual mask lurched, without collapsing), needs attention : like the occasional backstage noise, it threatens the quality of Chisinau performances rather too often for comfort.

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Copyright © 11 October 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK





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