Carmen la Cubana at the Sadlers Wells.
As a great lover of Cuba,and of the Opera Carmen, I was really looking forward to seeing the Cuban version of Carmen at the Sadlers Wells.
London’s second oldest theatre, Sadlers Wells has a colourful history.
The clue is in the name. Wells.
In 1683, Richard Sadler built a music house round the newly-discovered mineral spring. And by the beginning of the 18th century the building had a lot of entertainment, like singers, jugglers, wrestlers, and even dancing dogs!
Thomas Rosoman had the theatre rebuilt to show opera productions. But the beer brewed from the springs was the popular attraction.
Dickens wrote in the 1830s, ‘The theatre was in the condition of being entirely delivered over to as ruffianly an audience as London could shake together… Fights took place anywhere, at every period of the performance.’
After various other changes over the years, the rebuilt theatre opened in October 1998, with traces of the older theatres still in the structure.
As we walked to our seats, we passed the old well, which is glassed over. It’s very deep but you can see the water at the bottom.
There are easy steps down to our seats, where we had a perfectly clear view of the stage, with a Translation screen just above, in front of us.
The orchestra was seated at the back of the stage, which made the sound blend in well with the Cast.
Nearly all the performers came from Cuba. It must be a real headache arranging flights, hotels, etc for such a large number of people, plus transporting costumes, scenery, musical instruments, etc!
There was only one permanent scene, but the Cast changed the settings in different ways, like swirling round with tablecloths over their heads while others danced onto the stage carrying chairs or tables, immediately creating a restaurant.
This kept the action going all the time with no pauses. As soon as one scene finished, the next was there.
The lead singers all had excellent voices and the dancers were tireless.
But I was disappointed to see that singers and dancers were separate.
None of the lead singers really danced.
Luna Manzanares Nardo, Carmen, has a gorgeous voice, and was rated as One of the Most Promising Singers in Cuba. But when I go to Cuba, everyone seems to have the rhythm in their blood, from coach drivers to hotel managers, and the sound of music sets them off dancing.
Carmen though, strutted across the stage with her fan and not the slightest movement from her hips!
I was expecting a sexy salsa or a tantalising tango with Carmen and her two leading men. What an opportunity for smouldering sexual allure! And how Cuban it would have been.
The opening scene had shades of Voodoo in the performance, with the Santera singing. And I think the voodoo theme could have been used a lot more in the story.
A conjurer read the cards to Carmen. That should have been a real voodoo scene with trances and flashing lights, and the Santera predicting Carmen’s fate.
I think that when El Nino (Joaquin Garcia Mejias) won the match, there should have been an extra cheer and shouting of Viva La Revolution for Castro and Che Guevera’s triumph.
When Jose (Saeed Mohamed Valdes) killed them both, why wasn’t there just a hint of blood to show what had happened?
Of course I’m being picky because that’s what I do.
The standard of music, singing and dancing was alive!
Would I go and see it a second time?
Yes I would! There was so much going on that I’d enjoy it all again!
Sadlers Wells Theatre.
020 7863 800
The nearest Underground Station is Angel.