When I was asked to attend the opening night of opera at the Perth Festival, my first thought was, do I own a fancy enough dress? And then, why did I never think it appropriate to buy myself a pair of opera glasses!? But the West Australian’s rendition of Carmen was not your typical opera.

Blessed with a beautiful balmy night, we all headed to the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA), where we were welcomed in and seated in half of the stadium, overlooking the massive stage and orchestra pit. It was fantastic to see such an eclectic mix of people in attendance, all styled in their own comfort, all ready to be serenaded and entertained.

Created in the 1870s, Carmen is the tale of a gorgeous gypsy woman who enchants those around her with her beauty, charisma, and assertive nature. After falling in love with a solider and convincing him to abandon his duty, the two leave with a group of Carmen’s miscreant friends, acquiring black market items at night. Filled with love, lust, jealousy and rage, Carmen follows the journey of the two lovers right to their tragic end.

West Australian Opera

As this was my first encounter with opera, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. Obviously, I knew the style of music that I was in for, however I never could have imagined just how breathtaking the experience was going to be. Now, I may not know or understand the lingo, or any of the deep inner workings of the opera, but I can tell you that the singing performances that were delivered were absolutely phenomenal. Although all songs are performed in French (which adds to the romance), there are surtitles on the screens attached to the stage, so you are able to follow along. This was the point where I wished that I had bought a pair of opera glasses as the writing on the screen facing me was quite small and at times made it difficult to know exactly what was happening. Thankfully, the dialogue was in English so if you got swept up during the song and forgot to read along (or have terrible vision like me), you would be caught up during the next dialogue act.

The orchestra were also fantastic and set a beautiful foundation for the singers on stage. It was wonderful to hear their pieces highlighted several times throughout the evening.

My favourite part of the show came just before the end as fireworks lit up the sky whilst the chorus sung on stage. This effect added an extra element to an already incredible performance. I could not tell you what was happening during the song as I was completely mesmerised by the display which complimented the music so beautifully, but it was a moment that will stay with me and a highlight of the evening.

The unique venue made for a magical experience and added a relaxed atmosphere that I gather isn’t necessarily typical for opera. Although you could see the glowing lights of Optus stadium and the occasional headlight of cars in the distance, nothing detracted away from the spellbinding singing of the performers on stage.

WA Opera 2023

On the way to cricket ground I met an older gentleman who said that Carmen was the first performance that he saw as a teen, that made him fall in love with the opera. After witnessing it for myself I can agree that Carmen has whet my appetite for opera and I cannot wait to experience more captivating shows like this one in the years to come.

So, whether you’re a seasoned opera- buff or completely green like me, Carmen by the West Australian Opera is a timeless classic that will captivate and enthrall all audience members and leave them wanting more.

The West Australian Opera season for 2023 has more magic in store, so check out the calendar on the WA Opera website here.

Thank you for the invitation to review the show WA Opera.

Need more convincing Opera is for everyone? Check out Pieta’s review of La Traviatta here.

Images by Alana Blowfield.