THIS new production by Clive Marshall – a rethink from his 2003 version – was billed as featuring four young singers, still in their twenties and mainly new to the world of grand opera, in principal roles.

It was a daring move, but it worked: the show has a youthful charm that – dare I say it – is at odds with the director’s rather melancholy (written) view of the underprivileged, both in Carmen and in the present day.

Humanity, we discover, will always find a way of coping with whatever fate throws in its path. So too do these young singers.

York Press:

Annabel van Griethuysen's Carmen: "A provocative minx, testing anything in trousers with her charms". Picture: Nigel Lindley

Annabel van Griethuysen has made a giant step from the world of Gilbert & Sullivan to the title role here. Her Carmen is a provocative minx, testing anything in trousers with her charms and discarding whoever falls short. She also uses her soprano intelligently, sparkily Spanish in her habanera and a dab hand with the castanets in her seguidilla.

Opposite her, Andrew Powis makes a surly, emotionally stunted José, whose reactions to her are often more baffled than involved. He keeps us guessing about his true intentions. His tenor is at its best when he lets it go, as in Act 3; elsewhere, he is too bound up with the tensions of the role to relax fully. By the end, even Carmen is scared of him, rightly of course.

Alexandra Mather’s girl-next-door Micaëla provides just the contrast we need. Her intonation was erratic in the first half on opening night, but settled down nicely after the break as it surely will through the week. Her Act 3 aria, with tender horns, is a highlight. The experienced Ian Thomson-Smith returns as Escamillo and beams his way through the show in a meaty baritone. He is joined by nine non-singing toreadors in Act 4.

York Press:

Andrew Powis's Don José and Annabel van Griethuysen's Carmen in York Opera's Carmen. Picture: Nigel Lindley

Helen Eckersall and Rebecca Smith bring light relief and plenty of zest to their vivid Frasquita and Mercédès, while Hamish Brown and Alex Davison make friendly smugglers, rather than cut-throats, of Dancairo and Remendado. Clive Goodhead’s Moralès and Gareth Rees’s Zuniga do just enough to suggest leadership of their motley platoon.

With John Soper’s mobile set, redolent of Seville, able to suggest any number of locations and Maggie Soper’s convincingly ethnic costumes, there is plenty of Iberian atmosphere. The children’s chorus is both energetic and musically disciplined. The ladies’ chorus acts its heart out, the men’s less so. The remaining colour is amply provided by Derek Chivers’s excellent orchestra, whose entr’actes are succulent. Youth wins the day.

York Opera in Carmen, York Theatre Royal, tonight and Friday at 7.15pm; Saturday, 4pm. No performance on October 25.