Last Saturday was a special day for me. For 13 months everything has been about being a mother to Clara and doing family-related things, which I love, (so please don’t get me wrong!). I LOVE motherhood, but recently I started realising, that it was time to start doing things for myself again. When I was pregnant, Frenchie and I promised each other, that we should not forget being a couple! Easier said than done… 

Welcome to Covent Garden – London’s main theatre and entertainment area!

Covent Garden is home to many fashion stores, The Apple Market, London Transport Museum and last but not least…The Royal Opera House

It is no secret, that I am not an opera-expert! So being here was very exciting to me! Especially since we were invited to enjoy one of the most performed operas in the world – “Carmen” by Bizet. (As you can see, I was dressed for the occasion in flaming red – little did I know, that the director Barrie Kosky’s production would be a bit different than expected) 

For this occasion, I had brought Frenchie and my dear friend Scarlett

Scarlett is my go-to person, when it comes to cultural events! Not only was she UK Blog Awards Judge 2019 in Arts and Culture, she also runs with great success. (More about her verdict after the show)

The Royal Opera House is a Grade I-listed building, and with its beautiful modern additions it is a striking Covent Garden landmark!

Here I am at The Paul Hamlyn Hall – formerly known as The Floral Hall

Bonus-info:The Floral Hall was originally built to house an exotic flower, fruit and vegetable market, to provide income for the Opera House. It now houses a champagne bar and restaurant for patrons during performance intervals, and in the daytime is home of Tea at the Royal Opera House. It can also act as an unusual and immersive performance space. The hall was renamed the Paul Hamlyn Hall in 2007, in recognition of generous financial support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The lower lobby area has an informal stage for daytime performances

Bonus-info:The Royal Opera House is open daily to all from 10am, hosting Opera Tots, family “crafterthons” and pre-performance talks. I would personally love to take Clara to Opera Tots, so she can discover the world of opera through fun workshops full of singing, music and stories!

Let the show begin…

We had really great seats at the Orchestra Stalls. One thing that I noticed was, that it is all kinds of people who come to the opera (from young to old!) Can you find us in the crowd?

It is strictly forbidden to take photos under the performance, but here are a few for you to enjoy… (All photos are by photographer Bill Cooper, Carmen 2019)

As mentioned earlier, I am not an expert, so what you will get, is a review from a “beginners” eyes. I have seen a lot of ballets (I love ballet) and “La Traviata” at the beautiful amphitheatre in Verona, but that is it!

Carmen in a gorilla-costume! The audience were obviously puzzled- and so was I!

I had decided not to read any reviews before going to this performance. Therefore I had no idea, what to expect! I have seen scenes from Carmen on TV, so I thought it would be a very colourful performance… It wasn’t! Director Barrie Kosky has basically striped away, what the programme calls, “decades of encrusted cliché”. There was no dialogue – instead there was a new pre-recorded spoke text. Now you might think, that this all sounds a bit boring – but it wasn’t! I actually loved it!  

A very seductive Carmen played by Anaïk Morel

My favourite scene was this one. Micaéla (Ailyn Péréz) telling Don José (Bryan Hymel) that his mother forgives him and wants him to come home. (Frenchie and Scarlett had to smile a bit, when noticing me emptying a packet of Kleenex. I was truly touched)

A permanent walk-down staircase and monochrome costumes… Why? The aim was to focus on the drama rather than picture-postcard trappings, which I personally think worked out perfectly

So what do you get instead of castanets, fans and gypsy bonfires? You get tricks and turns of a vaudeville act, with up-tempo dancing

Interval and time for a glass of chilled rosé at the balcony

Soldiers, children, dancers, cigarette girls, gypsies, bullfighters and smugglers. There certainly was a lot going on – and with 16 big steps to canter up and down, there was no margin for error. I loved it.

I was afraid, that 3 hours would be too long for me to stay focussed! It wasn’t! I basically didn’t want it to end – and I can’t wait to see more operas in the future

As promised, here is Scarlett’s review of Carmen: “I reckon if Elvis Presley came back as an opera singer, he would end up as Escamillo, el hot toreador from Carmen, trussed up in pink tights and gyrating those hips away. And I’m pretty sure Barrie Kosky’s baroque version would have been his Carmen of choice, with its sensational cabaret-style production.”

“There isn’t a castanet in sight, but there are plenty of toreadors and a flamenco dress which makes Kate’s wedding veil pale in comparison. This Carmen is a radical version where the entire Royal Opera House stage is shaped into a giant staircase, one which demands much physicality from the superb chorus (I did keep my fingers firmly crossed that one of them wouldn’t trip)”

“Anaïk Morel gave us a fiery and seductive Carmen, although I am still not sure why she ends up in a gorilla costume. But it’s the Americans who stole the show with tenor Bryan Hymel who was all power and poise as the bully boy Don José, and soprano Ailyn Pérez, enchanting as Micaëla with her vibrant, caressing tones.”

It was interesting reading Scarlett’s review, as I was agreeing with her in so many ways

I guess it shows, that you don’t have to be an expert to share some of the same thoughts after a performance. I too was very much in love with the amazing voices of Bryan Hymel and Ailyn Péréz – and I am also quite puzzled by Carmen’s gorilla outfit! It leaves something to talk about, which I find intriguing and fun! 

We said goodbye to Scarlett and went up to Level 5 Piazza Terrace Bar at the Opera House 

“This must be Covent Garden’s best kept secret”, I thought to myself, when I saw the view…

Our view from our table… Just wow!

I was most certainly in my happy place! What a gorgeous restaurant!

Plenty to look at while waiting for our Afternoon Tea…

Yes, please…

Time to relax, unwind, talk about the performance, enjoy a lovely glass of prossecco…

 – and eat delicious food: Nicoise salad with seared tuna, Severn and wye smoked salmon on rye bread, Truffled egg mayo with cress on white bread, Roast beef horseradish with watercress on granary bread. My favourite was the Truffled egg mayo! Delicious!

Fruit and plain scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream

Gateau opera, Gooseberry elderflower fool, Blueberry almond tart and Ruinart Champagne syllabub on raspberry macaron! There was one plate for each, so we got to taste it all

The Afternoon Tea was the best way to end a perfect day at the Opera. I was so happy, when we left and would so love to do it all over again! 

If you love ballet as much as I do, you should come around! 

It was great being out with Frenchie and Scarlett at The Royal Opera House. It really is a must see, when you are in London – and remember… You don’t have to go to a performance to visit!

I would like to thank The Royal Opera House for an amazing afternoon

We were invited as guests, but all opinions are as always my own!

Louise, Frenchie and Scarlett x