Achieving the extraordinary through the commonplace

Jan Capinski aka Morales is going to be a guide through this new production of Carmen

We have been rehearsing Carmen for a week now under the guidance of Dr Jonathan Miller, a name which, for those who know opera, needs no introduction.  For the rest of us, there is YouTube, Google and Wikipedia.  I came to the UK 5 years ago, knowing close to nothing of the recent history of British operatic productions, yet the number of times the phrase ‘the Jonathan Miller production of…’ came up, I quickly became well-acquainted with the ‘legend’, and eventually even saw a revival of his famous Boheme at ENO. And now here I am, working with the man himself, not to mention the MWO creative team (as well as Rory Bremner) who are shaping this Carmen into something special.

Why will it be special?  How do I know already?  Well, for one thing, I’ve met the cast and team, and with people like these I can’t really imagine it being anything but… Also, there is a sense that no one is interested in this being just another Carmen, full of stock moves, posturing, flamenco gestures and lavish colourful costumes.  In fact Dr Miller has repeatedly stated he’s not interested in any of that operatic rubbish.  What he wants is real people on stage, a working class story inhabited by characters that the audience will recognise as being the same as they are; a slightly surreal set that won’t dominate or distract you, but that lets you focus in on the story; a touring production in the vernacular visiting small venues, so that you will be ‘close enough to see the spit flying from the singers’ mouths’, rather than having hundreds of feet of exclusive seats and a vast pit separating you from the action… Yes, this Carmen should be special.  Not just because of the famous names on the poster, or because of the ‘smash hit’ nature of Bizet’s masterpiece, but because of what Jonathan Miller describes as the paradox of theatre: if you introduce the commonplace onto the stage, the audience will recognise it as truthful and perceive it to be extraordinary, whereas if you set out to deliver the extraordinary, what you end up with is a commonplace production.

Over the course of the coming weeks I hope to give you an insight into what we are all trying to achieve, a glimpse of Jonathan Miller’s views and methods, as well as some thoughts on Carmen as a character and opera, and finally observations from life on tour.  I’ve no doubt the process of preparing this show will inspire many a post from me, and hopefully reading about it will inspire you to come and see the end result of our work.

You can follow Jan on Twitter @JanCapinski

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