The season, day by day

back to calendar


Georges Bizet 1838–1875

Opéra comique in 3 acts
Libretto by Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée
First performed March 3 1875, Opéra Comique, Paris

This production first seen June 5 2016

Sung in French with German & English surtitles.
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin and here on video

Carmen Varduhi Abrahamyan
Don José Abraham Bretón°
Micaëla Kateryna Kasper / Nombulelo Yende°
Escamillo Nicholas Brownlee
Moralès / Dancaïro Liviu Holender / Iain MacNeil
Remendado Andrew Kim°
Frasquita Elena Villalón
Mercédès Helene Feldbauer°
Zuniga Erik Van Heyningen / Božidar Smiljanić

°Member of the Opera Studio

Seville. Moralès and his soldiers look on as men pester a young woman, Micaëla, who's looking for sergeant Don José. She runs off, saying that she'll come back when José's on duty. The women who work at the cigarette factory are taking a break, surrounded by men. Carmen's got the most admirers. Only one man, José, takes no notice until she throws him a flower. He's confused and fascinated by her, and pleased when he sees Micaëla again. She, an orphan raised by José's mother, gives him a letter, money and, best of all, a kiss from his mother, which makes him forget seductive Carmen for a moment. Carmen's arrested for injuring one of her colleagues in the factory with a knife. Lieutenant Zuniga orders José to take her to prison. She seduces José with her song and promises of love. He helps her escape, and is arrested. Lillas Pastia's tavern. Carmen and her friends Mercédès and Frasquita work with Dancaïro and Remendado, two smugglers. Escamillo, the winner of the bullfight in Granada, appears. He is strongly attracted to Carmen, who's waiting for José, who's due to be released from prison that day, the reason why she refuses to take part in the next smuggling venture. José arrives at last. While Carmen dances for him, the tattoo is heard. The soldier, aware of his duty, tells Carmen he must go. She's furious with him and doubts his love. Lieutenant Zuniga appears. José, driven by jealousy, attacks his superior. Zuniga's disarmed by the smugglers. There's no turning back now for José, he deserts. INTERVAL In the mountains. The smugglers try and transport their wares to Seville under the cover of darkness. José now lives with them and Carmen, who's fed up with his jealousy. The cards prophesy that both will die. When Escamillo, searching for Carmen, meets José they fight, and Carmen saves Escamillo's life. He invites her and the smugglers to the bullfight in Seville. Micaëla bravely approaches the smugglers to try and persuade José to come home. Only the news that his mother's on her deathbed can move him to follow Micaëla. Outside the bullring. Escamillo enters the arena for the bullfight, cheered by the crowd. Carmen wants to follow him. José blocks her way. José begs Carmen, for the last time, to follow him and start a new life. She refuses, throwing the ring he gave her to the ground. José stabs Carmen.

Barrie Kosky’s Carmen achieved cult status a matter of weeks after bursting onto the stage in 2016, and still hasn’t lost it’s magic, by taking the probably most often performed opera in the world back to its roots: opéra comique. Clear spoken texts guide us through the story towards a very unexpected outcome, lyric moments colliding with breathtaking revue scenes. Kosky’s reading, highlighting opera buffa and heart-breaking tragedy, shatters all the usual Carmen clichés, fanning the discrepancies between Carmen and Don Jose’s ways of life to exploding point: she drives him, trying to cross the boundaries of his own love, out of his mind and throws him off kilter. His attempts to make her conform are doomed.