Playing Escamillo

There is something both scary and liberating about preparing to play a showman like the celebrated Toreador or bull fighter.  He is a character in Bizet’s opera masterpiece, Carmen.  It’s based on the novella of the same name by Prosper Merimee.  The characters of Carmen and Don Jose are already very fleshed out but Bizet does a brilliant job in turning the story into a full-scale opera.  The music is also stunning with so many memorable tunes and pieces containing such exotic flavour, both in rhythm and style.

Two principle characters in the opera do not exist in the original story – Escamillo and Don Jose’s maiden friend from Don Jose’s village.  They represent two different facets of Carmen and Don Jose’s brief relationship. Micaëla represents the simple, innocent life that Don Jose used to enjoy whilst Escamillo could be Carmen’s future, however brief their love affair might be.

So, who is Escamillo?  What is it like to step into his shoes?

In my audition, I said I pictured Eric Cantona after he scored a sensational goal for Manchester United.  The way he slow-turned on the spot allowing a rapturous stadium to drink him in; this to me was the modern-day Matador.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the other football showman I have in mind.  He is so sure and convinced of his own brilliance that he is perceived as arrogant.

As a role, it is brief but explosive.  He appears three times, once to promote his next bull fight, then in pursuit of Carmen and finally arriving at the bull ring.  In those three moments, he sings about how great he is, has a knife duel and serenades Carmen in front of his adoring public.

Now that the lines are learned, I’m learning the fight choreography and how to appear more macho and arrogant, physically.  For this I have Choreographer Herbert DesLauriers to thank as he works with us to refine our character movements.  Anything which gets you into character and out of your head is useful, such as a new posture, a focus, a costume.  I’m hoping I get my Toreador swagger soon…

Bristol Opera’s production of Carmen will be performed 26-29 April 2017.