John Clare Writings

Carmen Correctness

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Recently there was a little pro and contra re the staging of Bizet’s opera Carmen. Should it be re-enacted in its original setting, which was a cigarette factory? And should the heroine – a pioneer female libertarian – smoke on stage, as per the original directions? I have very personal reasons to be down on Sir Walter Raleigh – or was it Francis Drake – who should be burned in effigy every bonfire night, if there is still such an institution, but there is a very simple solution that would have saved many buffs from getting hot under the collar.

Respected precedents could be observed while remaining ideologically sound and perhaps speaking more directly and concisely to the modern audience. An ideal and highly regarded model is that of ┬áthe Spike Jones And The City Slickers version which is set in a bubble gum factory. The constant popping of gum enlivens the music and adds another level of texture. Excitement is heightened by the wild accelerations of the orchestra (lunch break overdue perhaps?) and the erratic veering and climbing, as though drunk, of the soprano, who finally wobbles like a satellite losing its orbit and shoots straight up beyond human hearing. The whole is brought to a highly satisfactory resolution with an explosion (as if all the bubble gum was popped at once) – a familiar Jones gambit that always works. A critical and box office success guaranteed. Ticks all the boxes.


  1. David Sampson – 22 October 2014

    As someone who liked Carmen Jones my position is obvious. The updating of classics for reasons of creativity and audience relevance is necessary and also chancey. But editing for ideological reasons is more problematic (The Merchant of Venice anyone?) since its primary purpose is to conform to the political sensibilities of the producer and perhaps the audience.

  2. Spike Jones (no Z please) – 28 October 2014

    This Johnny Clare boy knows his opera backwards. In fact that is the way I will next present Don Giovanni. It should go off with bang. Or start with one. Hmmm. Inspiration is coming

  3. Spike Jones (no Z please) – 28 October 2014

    This Johnny Clare boy knows his opera backwards. In fact it has gioven me an idea for my presentation of Don Giovanni. Thks should go off with a b…No! It should start with a bang! Wow.

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