The jolly quintet in Lilas Pastia's Tavern was by far and away the highlight of Co-Opera Co.'s Carmen in the Forum at Malvern this evening. You could see from this where Gilbert & Sullivan went for their inspiration. We were sitting in the second row, quite a gap between us and the orchestra, which was on the level in front of a fairly narrow rostrum stage, with the permanent backdrop of some Moorish-looking arches. The cast of nine singers had its work cut out to convey the flavour of Seville and its mountainous hinterland - Act 3 ("A wild and deserted rocky place at night") looked more like an apology for the Occupy movement, with its trio of wigwams; but the drama somehow won through. Certainly Adriana Festeu looks the part of Carmen, and I was impressed too by the band of 15, James Holmes conducting. This young company is one to encourage.