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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs


Empire Theatre, Liverpool
December 6 (then touring Spring, 2009)

Author: Georges Bizet
Director: Ellen Kent
Producer: Amphitheatre
Cast Includes: Zarui Vardanean, Irakli Grigali, Petru Racovita, Irina Vinogradova

Running Time: 3hrs 5mins

  Carmen promotional image


If last week’s English National Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty was every tin of Christmas toffees come to life, this Ellen Kent production of Carmen was the tinsel that tops the tree and when it returns in Spring this reviewer will be at the head of the queue for tickets.

Big, bold and dazzlingly bright, this is an operatic feast that takes hold from the off and refuses to relinquish its grip.


It’s a show that’s full of surprises, too. The brass band introduction at the beginning of the overture gives a mere taste of the Andalucian authenticity other productions might lack, especially as the action takes place within and without the walls of a gigantic bullring. There is also the exceptional Flamenco talent of Samantha Quy to feast upon, which adds further dimension to this classic tale of love and death. As for the added conclusion, well, let others explain. Suffice to say it works exceptionally well.

Irina Vinogradova’s spurned Micaela is sublime. Irakli Grigali’s Don Jose is brim-full of jealous rage and terrific presence. Petru Racovita’s Escamillo – a heavy tumble from a tabletop not withstanding – is choc-a-bloc with vanity and self-importance.

Yet it is Zarui Vardanean’s Mezzo-soprano voice and perfect dark gypsy-beauty, combined with the rare ability for an opera star to act, which will live long in the memory.  Vardanean not only takes on the role of Carmen, she possesses it lock, stock and barrel and turns the whole show into something quite exceptional.

There are occasions a reviewer has to take their hat off and say, yes, that was pretty darn impressive and this latest incarnation of Bizet’s Carmen is one such occasion.

Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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