Music by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
A co-production with Boston Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera
Sung in French with English surtitles, provided by San Francisco Opera
BLO’s 40th Anniversary Season launches with the East Coast premiere of Calixto Bieito’s Carmen in a co-production with San Francisco Opera – marking the director’s long-awaited U.S. opera debut. Set in the arid earthiness of 1970’s post-Franco Spanish North Africa, this raw and cinematic vision is a powerful account of the defiantly free-spirited woman and her obsessive lover, set to Bizet’s intoxicating score.
Jennifer Johnson Cano, critically acclaimed for her star turn in BLO’s 2015 production of Don Giovanni, returns to Boston as the fiery, seductive gypsy who destroys the naïve soldier Don José, played by Roger Honeywell. Michael Mayes and Chelsea Basler return to BLO, and BLO Music Director David Angus conducts.
Conductor David Angus
Production Calixto Bieito*
Revival Director Joan Anton Rechi*
Set Designer Alfons Flores*
Costume Designer Mercè Paloma*
Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel
Associate Lighting Designer Amith Chandrashaker*
Fight Director Andrew Kenneth Moss
Wig And Makeup Designer Jason Allen
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston MA
2 hours, 45 minutes including one intermission
Pre-Opera Talks are free to ticketholders and take place one hour before curtain
Please note: This production contains violence, nudity, and sexual content. Recommended for mature audiences only.
CAST in order of appearance
Yusef Lambert* as Lillas Pastia
Vincent Turregano† as Moralès
Chelsea Basler‡ as Micaëla
Liam Moran as Zuniga
Gina DeFreitas as Manuelita
Jennifer Johnson Cano as Carmen
Roger Honeywell as Don José
Lily Waters* as Girl
Kathryn Skemp Moran as Frasquita
Heather Gallagher‡ as Mercédès
Michael Mayes as Escamillo
Andrew Garland as El Dancairo
Samuel Levine as El Remendado
Junichi Fukuda* as Torero
Soldiers, children, cigarette girls, gypsies, smugglers
* Boston Lyric Opera Debut
† Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist
‡ Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist Alumnus
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
Outside a cigarette factory, men press forward to see the cigarette girls, especially the gypsy Carmen. She sings a habanera and throws a flower to Don José, a corporal in the Dragoons. He is perturbed, yet moved by her gesture. His fiancée Michaëla arrives, bringing greetings from his far-away mother. A furious fight, started by Carmen, breaks out in the factory. She is arrested and handed over to José. During the interrogation conducted by the lieutenant Zuniga, Carmen refuses to answer questions; instead, she cheekily sings to herself. Once alone with José, she promises him a rendezvous later that night—if he lets her escape. José feigns being thrown to the ground, enabling Carmen to run off. José’s superiors see through his ruse, and he is taken to prison.
Carmen sings and dances with two of her female friends, Frasquita and Mercédès. Later, the toreador Escamillo enters. Carmen rejects his advances, saying she is in love with José. The band of smugglers invites Carmen to join them on a heist, but she hears of José approaching. Carmen shoos everyone out and dances for him. A bugle call is heard from the streets. José, who has been demoted to the rank of private, says he must now return to the barracks. Carmen derides and mocks him, which tortures José. In the meantime, Zuniga returns with hopes of seducing the beautiful gypsy. Blind with jealousy, José flings himself at his superior officer, but the smugglers enter and separate them. They urge José to join their band and he has no choice but to do so.
José, who has been forced to accompany Carmen into hiding, thinks with remorse of his aged mother. Carmen is tired of him. She engages in a tarot card reading with Frasquita and Mercédès. The cards reveal that her fate is sealed: it will be the death for her and José. The smugglers go off with the women to do their shady business. Michaëla enters, looking for José. She hides waiting for him to return. Escamillo arrives looking for Carmen. The jealous José provokes a fight with the toreador as Carmen arrives just in time to separate them. Michaëla’s presence is discovered, and she tells José that his mother is dying and beseeches him to follow her. José, stricken with grief and jealousy, follows Michaëla out, but not before promising—and threatening—Carmen that he will return.
A square is filled by a noisy crowd awaiting the arrival of the bull-fighter. Escamillo enters with Carmen on his arm. Frasquita and Mercedes warn Carmen of José whom they have seen lurking around. Carmen shuns their warnings, and says that she will confront José and end the relationship once and for all. After the crowd funnels into the arena, José implores Carmen to come back to him and love him again. She tosses away the ring which he had given her, and defiantly proclaims her love for Escamillo. Just as Escamillo defeats the bull, José stabs Carmen to death. He falls sobbing over her corpse, calling out her name in despair and admitting his guilt.
Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart); March 3, 1875
First performance in the United States:
New York, Academy of Music; October 23, 1878
Meet the Artists
DAVID ANGUS Conductor
David Angus is Music Director of Boston Lyric Opera, following a very successful period as Music Director of Glimmerglass Opera. He conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra every season and is also Honorary Conductor of the Flanders
Symphony Orchestra, where he was Chief Conductor for many years and built the orchestra into one of the most exciting young orchestras in Northern Europe. Mr. Angus now conducts opera
all over Europe and North America. He began his career working at Glyndebourne, where he conducted a wide range of operas, and he went on to work in Italy and then across Europe. In the concert hall, he performs particularly in the UK and Scandinavia, and next season will also see him in Italy, Ireland and Portugal, as well as returning to his former orchestra
in Belgium. He has recorded many CDs and broadcasts regularly on classical radio channels.
CALIXTO BIEITO Production
Since his first operatic staging—Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna at Opera Zuid, Maastricht, in 1999— Calixto Bieito has staged operas by Verdi (Un Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Don Carlos), Mozart (Don Giovanni, Così Fan Tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Wagner (Der Fliegende
Holländer, Parsifal, Tannhäuser), Puccini, Berg (Wozzeck, Lulu), Gluck (Armida), Beethoven (Fidelio) at the most renowned international opera houses such as English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Vlaamse Opera, Theater Basel, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Stuttgart Opera, Opernhaus Zürich, Den Norske Opera Oslo, Bayerische Staastoper, Munich and Opéra National de Paris. He first presented his staging of Carmen in Spain in 1999, followed by productions and revivals at Opera Ireland, Dublin (2002), Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp and Ghent (2004), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona (2010), Teatro Auditorio
San Lorenzo del Escorial, Madrid (2009), Theater Basel (2011), Teatro Massimo, Palermo (2011), La Fenice, Venice (2012), Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo in Bogotá (2012), English National Opera (2012), Den Norske Opera Oslo (2015), and San Francisco Opera (2016). He was awarded an Abbiati Award 2011 by the Italian Association of Musical Critics for his staging of Carmen. Forthcoming: La Forza del Destino at The Metropolitan Opera, New York.
JOAN ANTON RECHI Revival Director
Joan Anton Rechi is making his Boston Lyric Opera debut with Carmen. He acted in theaters and on television before starting to work as a production assistant for directors, including Calixto Bieito, Robert Carsen and Willy Decker. He began his own work
as a director in 2003 with a theatrical adaptation of Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers at Barcelona’s Romea Theater. Recent engagements include a new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Darmstadt, Germany and the premiere of Salome in Bogotá, Colombia. Upcoming engagements include Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte in Oviedo, Spain; Verdi’s Il Trovatore at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu; and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in Dusseldorf, Germany.
ALFONS FLORES Set Designer
Alfons Flores has collaborated with such directors as Àlex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), Joan Lluís Bozzo, Carlos Wagner and Guy Joosten. With Calixto
Bieito, he has designed sets for Un Ballo in Maschera, Don Giovanni, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Fledermaus and Wozzeck. His work with Barcelona’s La
Fura dels Baus has included sets for Le Grand Macabre, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and Enescu’s Oedipe. He has also designed sets for the World Premiere of Francesconi’s Quartett at La Scala. Mr. Flores has been awarded critics’ prizes in Dublin and Barcelona.
MERCÈ PALOMA Costume Designer
Mercè Paloma studied Art History at the University of Barcelona. Her extensive theatre credits include many collaborations with Calixto Bieito, most recently Barbaric Comedies and Life is a Dream at the Edinburgh Festival, Macbeth at the Salzburg Festival, and Peer Gynt in Norway. Opera credits include Così
Fan Tutte and Die Fledermaus for Welsh National Opera; Don Giovanni and Un Ballo in Maschera for English National Opera and Royal Danish Opera; Tosca, Wozzeck, and Manon Lescaut for Frankfurt Opera; Carmen and Il Mondo della Luna for Opera Zuid of Maastricht; Parsifal and La Fanciulla del West for Stuttgart Opera, Il Trovatore for Staatsoper of Hannover; Cavalleria/Pagliacci for ABAO Bilbao and Salome for Bogotá Opera. She has also designed extensively for Spanish and Catalan television as well as the films A Los que Aman, El Mar, and Stella Cadente. Awards include Barcelona Critics Theatre Award 2007 and Gaudí Film Award for Pa Negre, and Stella Cadente.
ROBERT WIERZEL Lighting Designer
Robert Wierzel returns to Boston Lyric Opera where his most recent production with the Company was The Merry Widow. He has worked with artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in art, opera, theatre, and dance on stages throughout the country and abroad. His opera credits include productions
with the companies of Paris Palais-Garnier, Tokyo, Toronto, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, Chicago Lyric, Washington DC, and Seattle, among many others. His theatre work has been seen at many major companies throughout the country, as well as on and off Broadway, including Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Audra McDonald, and the Broadway musical Fela! (Tony Award nomination). Mr. Wierzel has a 31-year history with the director/choreographer Bill T. Jones and the BTJ/AZ Company. He is a faculty member of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
ANDREW KENNETH MOSS Fight Director
A resident of Boston, Andrew Kenneth Moss’ work was featured in Boston Lyric Opera’s Don
Giovanni and I Puritani. Other Boston credits include: A Little Night Music (Huntington Theatre Company), The Convert (Central Square Theater), Don Giovanni and La Tragédie de Carmen (Boston University Opera
Institute). International credits include: West Side Story (Adger Teater Kilden, Norway), Porgy and Bess (75th Anniversary International Tour), Safe (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Additional credits include: Armida (The Metropolitan Opera), Dead Man Walking, West Side Story, Carmen, and Oklahoma! (Central City Opera). Mr. Moss has been a Guest Instructor/ Lecturer at New York University, University of Oklahoma, Boston University, The New England Conservatory, Oklahoma City University, Hofstra University, and The School of Visual Arts.
JASON ALLEN Wig and Makeup Designer
Jason Allen has been BLO’s Resident Wig and Makeup Designer since 2003. A fixture of the Boston performing arts community, he also works with Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Ballet, and many other organizations in Boston and throughout the country.
JENNIFER JOHNSON CANO Mezzo-Soprano
Jennifer Johnson Cano is a 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grant and 2014 George London Award winner. She won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2008, and made her Met debut in 2009/10. As first-prize winner of the 2009 Young
Concert Artist International Auditions, she has debuted with pianist Christopher Cano at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and The Kennedy Center. Ms. Cano has performed at the Met as Mercédès, Emilia, Hansel, Nicklausse, Wellgunde and Waltraute, as well as Meg Page in Falstaff and Bersi in Andrea Chénier. She has appeared as Donna Elvira with Boston Lyric Opera and Arizona Opera, Dido with Opera Saratoga and
in Orfeo with Des Moines Opera. Ms. Cano has continuing relationships with the Cleveland Orchestra, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, and has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra. She gives her European debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in London and Paris in December.
ROGER HONEYWELL Tenor
Roger Honeywell returns to Boston Lyric Opera as Don José in Carmen. He appeared as Count Danilo in BLO’s The Merry Widow after performing it at Michigan Opera Theatre in the 2014/15 Season. Mr.
Honeywell performed with the Théâtre du Châtelet as Torasso in Sondheim’s Passion and in the World Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in the role of Veasey with Santa Fe Opera. He also appeared in Calgary as Nikolaus Sprink for the Canadian premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Vancouver Opera. This past July, he appeared as Archbishop Roche in the World Premiere of John Estacio’s Ours with Opera on the Avalon in Newfoundland, Canada. This Season, Mr. Honeywell joins The Royal
Opera, Covent Garden for their production of The Exterminating Angel.
MICHAEL MAYES Baritone
Michael Mayes has performed with opera companies across the United States including Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Omaha, Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Kentucky Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Arizona Opera, Central City Opera, Michigan
Opera Theatre, New Orleans Opera, Syracuse Opera, Opera Delaware, UrbanArias, Pensacola Opera, Opera Parallèle, Opera Memphis,
Bard SummerScape, and Fort Worth Opera. In the 2016/17 Season and beyond, Mr. Mayes will make his debut with Washington National
Opera in his celebrated role of Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking, and will also take the role to Pensacola Opera. Additionally, he will sing OlderThompson in Glory Denied with Nashville Opera, Doug in Everest with Dallas Opera, and make his debut at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
CHELSEA BASLER Soprano
Chelsea Basler is a Boston resident and BLO Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumna. An award- winning soprano, Ms. Basler’s BLO credits include Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Flora Bervoix in La Traviata and Isolt the Fair
in The Love Potion. She recently debuted the role of Sara in the World Premiere of Cold Mountain with Santa Fe Opera, played Josephine
in HMS Pinafore (Opera Saratoga), and Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men (Sarasota Opera). Other recital and oratorio credits include a recital at the National Opera Center in New York City and Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. She performed the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Saratoga this summer and will join Virginia Opera to cover the role of Liù in their production of Turandot.
LIAM MORAN Bass
A BLO Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumnus, Liam Moran’s BLO credits include I Puritani, Rigoletto and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has performed with orchestras including the National Symphony Orchestra, Madison Symphony, Pittsburgh
Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Palm Beach Symphony and Washington Concert Opera. Last Season included his return to Madison Opera as Colline in La Bohème and Verdi’s Requiem with the Finger Lakes Choral Society. The 2016/17 Season will see returns to Madison Opera as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, and The Metropolitan Opera for Der Rosenkavalier.
VINCENT TURREGANO Baritone
Vincent Turregano returns to Boston Lyric Opera for his second Season as a BLO Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist. Mr. Turregano was most
recently seen in The Merry Widow and in Puccini’s La Bohème. He spent two summers with Marilyn Horne
at The Music Academy of the West where he performed in Carmen as an ensemble member and La Cenerentola as Dandini. Mr. Turregano
is an avid recitalist. This past season, he could be found in Louisiana, Arizona, and Massachusetts giving recitals in varying repertoire. His love of contemporary classical music is a driving force in his performance career. From Ligeti to Stucky, he enjoys the challenge and nerve that it takes to bring convincing and powerful performances of new music to all audiences.
ANDREW GARLAND Baritone
During the 2016/17 Season, Andrew Garland will perform as Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte with Ash Lawn Opera, and as Dr. Joseph Talbot in the World Premiere of William Bolcom’s Dinner at Eight with Minnesota Opera. On the concert stage, he joins
New York Festival of Song at the Moab Music Festival, Boston Baroque, Colorado Bach Ensemble, Amherst Bach Festival, and the Houston Symphony for the World Premiere of A New Requiem by Gabriela Lena Frank. Recent highlights include Papageno in the The Magic Flute with Boston Baroque and Boston Lyric Opera; Dandini in La Cenerentola with Bob Jones University; Opera Philadelphia and Fort Worth Opera; Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos with Seattle Opera; and the title role in Galileo Galilei at Cincinnati Opera. He has performed in concert with
the Colorado Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Handel and Haydn Society, and The National Philharmonic, among others. Mr. Garland is widely recognized as a leader in recital work with dozens of performances around the country.
SAMUEL LEVINE Tenor
Samuel Levine, a candidate for the Artist Diploma
in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School, was featured this Season as Le Mari in Les Mamelles de Tirésias;
in recital with Steven Blier under the auspices of [email protected] and the 5 Boroughs Music Festival;
and First Armed Guard in Die Zauberflöte. He also appeared as Testo in Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with Cantata Profana; as Lenski in Eugene Onegin with Eugene Opera; and his debut with Bard SummerScape in Mascagni’s Iris. Recent highlights include
Don José in Carmen with Savannah Voice Festival, Narraboth in Salome with Virginia Opera, and the dual roles of Testo in Il Combattimento and Noah in the World Premiere of Lembit Beecher’s I Have No Stories to Tell You with Gotham Chamber Opera. Upcoming engagements include a debut with Opera Philadelphia, and a return to Juilliard. He is a graduate of Yale University, the Oberlin College Conservatory, and the young artist training programs of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Santa Fe Opera.
KATHRYN SKEMP MORAN Soprano
Kathryn Skemp Moran most recently appeared with Boston Lyric Opera as Bubikopf in Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis and as Flora in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. Other roles include Laurie in The Tender Land with Madison Opera, Najade in Ariadne
auf Naxos with Utah Opera and Jano in Jenůfa with Glimmerglass Opera. She has appeared with the Boston Pops on tour and at Symphony Hall with Keith Lockhart and off-Broadway in The Music Teacher with The New Group. Ms. Skemp Moran earned a Bachelor of Music and Musical Theater degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Music Degree from Boston University.
HEATHER GALLAGHER Mezzo-Soprano
Heather Gallagher is a BLO Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumna. BLO credits include Sylviane in The Merry Widow, Kätchen in Werther and Isolt’s Mother in The Love Potion. Additional credits include Marquise in La Fille du Régiment with Opera North,
the title role in Carmen with MetroWest Opera, Charlotte in Les Lettres de Werther with Boston Opera Collaborative, Cherubino in Le Nozze
di Figaro with Vero Beach Opera and Asakir in the Boston premiere of Sumeida’s Song with Boston Opera Collaborative. Ms. Gallagher is a recipient of numerous awards and honors including BLO’s Shrestinian Award, First Place in the Peter Elvin’s Competition and MetroWest Opera Competition, and an Encouragement Award from the Licia Albanese Competition.
YUSEF LAMBERT Actor
Yusef Lambert is making his Boston Lyric Opera debut and last played Lillas Pastia in the San Francisco Opera’s Carmen. A recent East Coast transplant, his work has been seen at the American Conservatory Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, San Francisco
Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Playhouse, The Annex Theatre in Seattle, Shakespeare at Stinson, The Lord Leebrick Theatre, and the Guerilla Mime Theatre. He is a founding member of the Tongue and Groove Theatre, an award-winning commedia dell’arte theater in Austin, Texas. Mr. Lambert also can be seen in the award-winning film The Magic Man, as well as various projects in the commercial industry.
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA ORCHESTRA
Sandra Kott Concertmaster
Annie Rabbat Solos
Jodi Hagen Acting Prinicpal
Kenneth Stalberg Principal
Abigail Kubert Cross
Loewi Lin Principal
Robert Lynam Principal
Linda Toote Principal
Mary Cicconetti Acting Principal
Jan Halloran Principal
Donald Bravo Principal
Kevin Owen Principal
Bruce Hall Principal
Robert Couture Principal
Jeffrey Fischer Principal
Richard Flanagan Principal
Ina Zdorovetchi Principal
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CHORUS
Michelle Alexander Chorusmaster
Jessica Johnson Brock
Hilary Anne Walker
John David Nevergall
Patrick T. Waters
Steven Lipsitt Artistic Director
Geoff Van Wyck
The Boston reviews are in!
– The Boston Globe
“Jennifer Johnson Cano was in total control dramatically and vocally… a convincing and passionate heroine…and a wonderful Carmen.”
– EDGE Media
“It’s difficult to remain cool about something so hot.”
– South Shore Critic
“Challenging, intriguing, dramatically effective…exciting.”
– Boston Music Intelligencer
“An evening of powerful, illuminating theater.”
“Not your grandmother’s “Carmen” … the sets, lighting and costumes enhance the gritty, dangerous atmosphere.”
– San Jose Mercury News
“A rough-edged, often startlingly insightful staging of Bizet’s masterpiece.”
– San Jose Mercury News
“An auspicious U.S. debut”
“Gripping… a startling, visceral spin on an age-old tale”
“Brawny and unpredictable…a raw, emotionally confrontational Carmen, with moments of high operatic impact…”
Recommendations for further reading, watching, and exploring from John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor
CARMEN: English National Opera Guide
Edited by Nicholas John
Riverrun Press, 1982
This guide contains critical articles and commentary, plus a libretto.
Georges Bizet: Carmen
By Susan Clary
Cambridge Opera Handbook
Cambridge University press, 1992
Another excellent entry in the Cambridge Opera Handbook series, this is full of stimulating discussion of the piece, including its genesis, reception, and place in popular culture.
Opera; or, The Undoing of Women
By Catherine Clement (translated from the French)
University of Minnesota Press, 1999
Any discussion of the assigned place or assumed meanings (mostly here portrayed as deeply negative) of the role of women in opera must feature Carmen, her energy, vitality, and fearless (but in the end, useless) defiance of death. This famous book (“a sacrilegious, pioneering work”) was perhaps the first written by a feminist theoretician to seriously deal with that now-familiar subject. But this is hardly a dry academic book—written with wit and eloquence and passion, it deals with a range of operas, including Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and the Ring cycle. It is by turns insightful and frustrating…but well worth diving into.
The original Carmen
For an online, somewhat old-fashioned version of the Mérimée novel (translated by the delightfully named Lady Mary Sophia Lloyd…does that sound like person who should be coping with a wanton gypsy?), visit Project Gutenberg online: www.gutenberg.org/etext/2465
Prosper Mérimée led a very intriguing life and his interests were widely varied. The novelist Julian Barnes has written a fascinating article on him, centering on Mérimée’s career as a conservator and restorer of French architecture. He served as Inspector General of Historical Monuments from 1834 to 1860.
CARMEN ON LOCATION (and on DVD)
Olive Films, directed by Francesco Rosi
A famous film with Plácido Domingo and Julia Migenes, directed by the celebrated Spanish film director Francesco Rosi. It is all shot outside or at appropriate interior locations in Andalusia—including the historic bullring in Ronda. This produces an interesting contrast (and sometimes an unwanted disconnect ) between the reality of the visual and the inherent “artificiality” of the operatic form.
U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005)
Mongrel Media, directed by Mark Dornford-May
Virtually the complete Bizet opera, sung by an African performance collective (in Xhosa) and filmed in a township in South Africa. This is, without doubt, my favorite Carmen—an utterly remarkable, moving, intense, vital, funny, tragic, and brilliantly shot, edited, and acted film.
OTHER TAKES ON CARMEN (all the below also available on DVD)
Unitel Classica, directed by Calixto Bieito
Carmen (the opera and the character) is perhaps the only example from the operatic repertory that is instantly and almost universally recognized. It is almost as if the narrative and Bizet’s music have been incorporated in our genes. This has allowed creative artists of all kinds to propose their own version, variation, or interpretation and to exploit or use creatively the tension that arises between their work and what is considered the “norm.” The Bieito production of Carmen that BLO is presenting plays with this idea: no picturesque details, no processions, no local color—indeed, no Seville—just the brutal, erotic truth that lies at the heart of the piece.
Carmen Jones (1954)
20th Century Fox, directed by Otto Preminger
Perhaps the most well-known and controversial of all the Carmen variations is this film, based on the Broadway show. We may cringe at the awkward attempts to talk “black” on the part of Hammerstein (while often admiring his cleverness). We may be disturbed by the vocal dubbing—although both of the leads were singers, they were somehow not considered sufficiently “operatic” (a young Marilyn Horne voices Dandridge; Pearl Bailey, however, is allowed her own inimitable voice). But there is considerable commitment and personality in the performances, and the film is worth seeing for both its theatrical vitality and the questions it raises.
Kultur Video, choreography by Mats Ek
The freedom and erotic charge of dance has always been part of Carmen‘s appeal, and one of my favorite versions of Carmen in any medium is this, created for the Culberg Ballet. It features the marvelous (cigar smoking) Carmen of Ana Laguna…witty, sardonic, and unexpected.
Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001)
New Line Home Video, directed by Robert Townsend
Carmen was deemed familiar and recognizable enough to be the basis for a MTV version starring the very young Beyoncé. You might check this out to see how far a “classic” can embed itself in popular culture.
OTHER BIEITO PRODUCTIONS
The director of the BLO Carmen, Calixto Bieito, has been called the “ʻQuentin Tarantino’ of opera … loved and hated for his shockingly contemporary visions of cruelly and sexuality.” His production of Carmen has been seen all over Europe, but this co-production with the San Francisco Opera significantly marks his American debut (he will direct La Forza del Destino in an upcoming Metropolitan Opera production, bound to ignite passionate reactions). His Carmen is available on DVD of a 2011 Barcelona performance.
Although he has done numerous productions abroad, only two others seem to be commercially available: a Don Giovanni from 2008 and a Wozzeck from 2010. Make no mistake, these are very controversial productions: bold (or just obvious?), erotic (or just crude?), theatrically vivid (or just shocking to no valid end?). See for yourself.
(And see Carmen live…it is a compelling event.)
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