Win Ralph Steadman Print and Carmen Tickets

Win a signed print worth £500 from the famed Gonzo artist and two tickets to Bizet's opera at the Waterfront Hall

Ralph Steadman’s love of opera came first from his father, but his illustrations for Ellen Kent’s nationally-praised production of Carmen were the product of a lucky association in the early 1980s, when he created pictures for an early Kent production entitled Ouch.

‘We all became a group,’ Steadman recalls, speaking from his home in Kent. ‘My wife Anna became good friends with Ellen. Oh blimey – it feels like yesterday.’

Carmen arrives at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on April 2, starring international mezzo soprano Nadia Stoianova. Georges Bizet's classic opera tells the story of the ill-fated soldier Don José, who is seduced and destroyed by the gypsy after whom the opera takes its name.

Carmen features some of opera’s most evocative and best-loved melodies, including 'The Habanera', 'The Seguidilla', 'The Flower Song', 'The Chanson Bohème' and 'The Toreador’s Song', perhaps the best-known baritone aria of them all.

'It is a powerful, epic opera with heartbreaking stories of love and loss that many people will identify with,' says Kent, who has won numerous awards as an opera producer since that early collaboration with Steadman.

'There will be brand new sets influenced by the wonderful paintings of Goya and reflecting the architecture of Seville, with its balconies, orange trees, fountains and flowers. The costumes will also reflect Goya’s paintings of the Spanish people of that era. And of course, it’s all set against the backdrop of the bullring. It’ll look magnificent.'

Ralph Steadman Carmen print


The promotion of this current production has been aided no end by Steadman's involvement. His poster depicts Bizet’s heroine in four attitudes, capturing the red-blooded, sultry allure of Carmen as her character develops. You can win a limited-edition print of the poster worth £500, and two tickets to Carmen at the Waterfront, by entering our competition.

Since his work on Ouch, Steadman’s stock has risen in the art world, though maybe not to the extent that he would like. ‘It depends where you sell [your prints],’ says the English artist, who is currently preparing for his own extensive exhibition at the London Cartoon Museum.

‘If you can sell them in Sotheby’s you could probably get quite a bit more,' he muses. 'I don't understand it. I don't seem to get Sotheby’s prices. I've seen stuff, really quite banal, going for four, five, ten million. Things go for crazy money. I don't know how they do that or justify it, but they do.’

Famous for his Gonzo artwork and partnership with journalist Hunter S Thompson in books like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Curse of Lono, Steadman has his own modest collection of valuable pieces dotted around the house.

‘I've got a couple on the wall by George Grosz,’ he says. ‘We're going to have them valued, because they're worth a bit of money, apparently. I didn't realise at the time. When I bought them I got them for nothing, really.’

Before answering a newspaper advert that would set him on the illustrator’s path, Steadman would do laps of middle England with his father, a commercial traveller who stocked emporiums with ladies’ frocks. His father liked ‘the pretty bits’ of opera, the best-known parts of Carmen, La Boheme and The Tiny Hand is Frozen.

‘The familiar bits,’ Steadman explains. ‘He was quite lovely. He was a sweet man in that way. He’d play the violin, but not under his chin. He played it like a cello! I think he was a bit Irish, actually. He would have been, perhaps, a good subject for an opera.’

Carmen, directed by Ellen Kent, opens at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on April 2. Win Ralph Steadman’s signed poster print, and two tickets, in this week’s competition.