In a square in Seville, soldiers and townspeople are gathered when a young peasant girl name Micaela questions the soldiers about her love, Don Jose. The soldiers try to persuade the young girl to stay with them until Don Jose returns, but she declines and leaves. Don Jose arrives moments before the cigarette factory bell rings and a group of women, including the beautiful gypsy, Carmen, exit the building. The soldiers flirt with the girls and asks Carmen when she will love them. Don Jose becomes enchanted by the beautiful Carmen. Micaela returns with a letter sent to Don Jose by his mother. In the letter, Don Jose's mother has asked him to marry Micaela. Don Jose promises his fidelity and love. A fight breaks out at the cigarette factory between Carmen and another woman. Carmen injures the woman before she is captured by Officer Zuniga. Zuniga commands Don Jose to escort Carmen to prison. However, Carmen charms Don Jose into letting her escape. When Don Jose is discovered for letting Carmen escape, he is thrown into jail.
At Lilas Pastia's inn, Carmen and her friends Mercedes and Frasquitam are socializing with the soldiers when the victorious bullfighter, Escamillo, arrives with a celebrating entourage and attempts to capture Carmen's heart. However, his attempts are unsuccessful, as are Officer Zuniga's, who tells Carmen that he will return to the inn later to meet with her - Carmen's heart waits for Don Jose's release from prison. The smugglers Dancairo and Remendado ask for help from Carmen and her two friends. Mercedes and Frasquita agree to help, but Carmen refuses as she knows that Don Jose will be released from prison that day. When he finally arrives, Carmen dances for him. Her dance is cut short when a bugle sounds in the distance, signaling Don Jose to return home. Carmen mocks his obedience and tries to persuade him to remain with her and live the gypsy life. Don Jose does not give in until Zuniga arrives at the inn searching for Carmen. Zuniga orders Don Jose to leave, but in a fit of jealousy, he defies his commander’s orders. Dancairo and Remendado tackle Zuniga and take him away from the inn. Don Jose stays at the inn with Carmen.
Don Jose, now at the smuggler's hideout in the mountains, begins to reminisce about his former home and his mother and starts missing them dearly. Carmen, who has decided she no longer loves him, takes notice and starts taunting him to leave, but he does not. Mercedes and Frasquita tell their fortunes with a deck of cards. For the two girls, the cards The smugglers and the girls leave, while Don Jose watches over the hideout. Micaela, comes to the mountain hideout and hides behind a mound of rocks when she hears a gunshot fired by Escamillo. Escamillo enters the hideout and begins telling Don Jose about his love for Carmen. He also tells Don Jose about her relationship with a soldier, not knowing the story is about Don Jose, who starts fighting Escamillo. The smugglers return before the fight gets worse. Escamillo invites Carmen and the others to his upcoming bullfight as he leaves the hideout. Micaela finally emerges from her hiding spot, and tries to convince Don Jose to return home. After several unsuccessful attempts, she finally persuades him to leave by telling him his beloved mother is dying. He promises his return to Carmen and leaves with Micaela.
During the procession of the toreadors, Carmen and Escamillo are seen arriving together. Mercedes and Frasquita warn Carmen that Don Jose is lurking around the crowd plotting to kill her. While Escamillo enters the bullfighting ring, a desperate Don Jose meets Carmen outside the arena. She explains that she no longer loves him and throws the ring he gave her on the ground. Now completely mad, Don Jose stabs Carmen in the heart with a dagger.
I can't comment on any of the individual performances as I didn't see any of them - they were either too far away or hidden by the chorus or both. The only person whose diction is good enough to be heard consistently is Elizabeth Atherton's Michaela, demonstrated by the fact that she got the biggest round of applause at the end, very possibly for being the only cast member who could be bothered to project her acting to the entire arena. Honestly, if the director had come on at the end I would have stood up and booed extremely loudly. Despite the vastness of the arena, most of this production is directed for a performance space the size of the stage in a village hall. No effort whatsoever went into using the space effectively, or even properly. The director should be ashamed of himself - he seems to have directed other arena productions on a similarly vast scale and there was no excuse for the schoolboy errors he has made for this show. Disgusting. If you go to see this (and I highly recommend you don't) then remember to take very powerful binoculars with you. You might be able to spot 76 people lurking round the auditorium who should be up on the stage.
Rating: No stars (bloody awful)
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