Michael Tanner

Decline and fall

Some operas become, thanks partly to the frequency with which they are produced, victims of their own popularity. The most obvious sufferer is Carmen, which is a no-winner for singers and directors alike. As soon as the curtain rises and you see lemon trees and swaying hips, your heart sinks and you spend the interval agreeing with everyone that it’s just another tired old cliché; while if the scene is a mortuary or a garage you complain — and fairly — that it’s wholly inappropriate for the drama and the music that gives it substance.

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