Opera’s self-confessed “new boy” talks about sexual tension, operatic frustrations and rolling with the punches.

“I didn’t pick Carmen – Carmen picked me. She’s a seductress. A wild woman”. So says John Bell, the latest man to be snared in the sensual toils of opera’s original femme fatale.

We are catching up over lunch after a torrid morning’s rehearsal at the Opera Centre in Sydney’s Surry Hills, the last hour of which has seen a knife fight, several stabbings and what looked suspiciously like a case of sexual assault. It’s the final day before moving over to the Opera House for matters technical and Bell is putting the finishing touches to a number of disparate scenes from Bizet’s classic. Sex and violence hang heavy in the air, as do the usual frustrations of opera: will I still be able to sing while I’m being thrown across the floor? Are these handcuffs too tight? Can you help me down to my knees after you’ve stabbed me, please?

John Bell is directing  Carmen for Opera Australia

Bell it turns out has most of the answers; after all he’s been working on the show, his...