Words by various translations and Music by Georges Bizet
Nuffield Theatre,
January 2011
Director: Shaun Dodimead
Cast List
Don Jose
Lillas Pastia

Notes on this performance

This production was the debut performance of a new English translation by SOS members, Mike Pavitt and April Luescher. This translation is copyrighted to SOS but is available on application.

115. Carmen 

A World Premiere…

 Past experiences show that any production of Carmen will be a traumatic affair, involving considerable upheaval, upset members and the chances are that the Chairman will resign soon after. In 2011, the set backs started early as Albie Minns, who had agreed to direct the show, was let down in a Maskers’ production and, for a while, ‘lost his love for amateur theatre’. However, Shaun Dodimead, who was going to direct EOMS’s cancelled production, agreed to take over, whilst Nigel Finch even joined the chorus of a professional production in readiness to be the MD.

It was felt that the standard translation of Carmen was sub-standard, so two members, April Luescher and Mike Pavitt, set about rectifying the problem. April translated the libretto from the original French and then Mike rearranged the words to fit the music – a Herculean task that he had hoped to complete in the summer but was then distracted by having to play the King in Utopia, Limited. Consequently, he worked to complete a song in time for the next rehearsal but the company would then have to start by writing the new version into their scores, all of which took up valuable time.

As anticipated, the auditions were contentious. Carmen attracted several new members and they were mostly successful in gaining the lead roles - never a popular outcome. Lilya Cherpokova played Carmen, she possessed a remarkable voice but her stage experience was limited to singing with a heavy metal band. She also had a strong Bulgarian accent and a cavalier approach to stage directions; verdicts of her portrayal of the character ranged from ‘perfect’ to ‘terrible’, depending on whether a raunchy Carmen appealed or not. The auditions’ panel did not find a suitable Don José amongst the candidates and eventually turned to a past member, Simon Pontin, who had since become a professional, and he was breathtakingly good!

The Echo reviewer did not dwell on the considerable length of the production and wrote: ‘Bizet’s opera, performed to a new English libretto by Mike Pavitt, from April Leuscher’s translation, was a vibrant production with much to commend. The singing and acting were, in the main, excellent, with stand-out performances from Simon Pontin as a creditable Don José and the ubiquitous David Tatnall, (Escamillo) who can always be relied upon to illuminate any stage. Company debutant Lilya Cherpokova’s Carmen was heavy on sexy posing, pouting and skirt-swishing but her speaking and singing voice was often indistinct. In contrast, Timothy Case’s delivery (as smuggler Dancaïre) was clarity personified and Cora Hardy also sang well as the rejected suitor Michaëla. Supporting roles were well-played by Pavitt himself (Morales), Annie Masters (Mercédès) and Jessica Smith (Frasquita). Director Shaun Dodimead delivered a near-faultless first night aided by wonderful chorus, costumes, set and lighting. The orchestra, led by musical director Nigel Finch, performed the well-loved score brilliantly from overture to finale.’

Even though the directing team belatedly insisted that a matinee would strain the voices of the principals too much, Carmen still achieved a healthy profit of £1740.

Terry O'Farrell


Photo of Micaela

Mike Pavitt (Morales) with Cora Hardy (Micaela)

Photo of Escamillo

Annie Masters (Mercedes) with David Tatnall (Escamillo)

Chorus of Quintet

Jessica Smith (Frasquita), Timothy Case (Dancaire), Tony Lehrle-Fry (Remendado), Annie Masters (Mercedes), Lilya Cherpokova (Carmen)

Photo of Fortune Telling

Annie Masters (Mercedes) and Jessica Smith (Frasquita) look into the future - Smuggler Les Pike looks on

Photo of Parade

David Tatnall (Escamillo) in the parade to the bull ring watched by David Collis (Zuniga)

Photo of Carmen

Simon Pontin (Don Jose) pleads with Lilya Cherpokova (Carmen)