The opera “Carmen” is a recognized masterpiece of world opera music. The story is based on the novel by Prosper Merimee of the same name, though its contents underwent sufficient changes. The writers A. Melliak and L. Gallevi wrote a libretto. They filled it with dramatism, further developed emotional contrasts and created new images and characters, very much different from their prototypes. The center of the flow of events is a beautiful, passionate and free Gipsy girl. The music of the opera, full of light and life, vividly asserts that humankind are free. The national color and the scene of the drama are depicted with great skill. The power of “Carmen’s” optimism is rooted in the inseparable connection of the opera’s characters with their people.
It is the last opera by J. Bizet, which made a thorny way to glory and to the stages of the best world theatres. “Carmen” was first shown in Paris on the 3rd of March 1875 in “Opera Comique” theatre and, strange as it may seem, it was no success, it even was a complete failure. The public was not ready for such realism on the stage, and the papers accused the composer of immorality. But these negative reviews finally made “Carmen” very popular. Thanks in no small part to the triumphant tour of Europe, Russia and America, the opera was back on the stages of Parisian theatres. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote: “The opera by Bizet is a masterpiece; it is one of the few works that are destined to reflect to a great extent the musical expectations of the whole époque. In about ten years “Carmen” will be the most popular opera in the world…”
Speaking about the concept of the future show, its director Georgy Isaakian pointed out: “Like in Merimee’s novel, we will start from Jose’s reminiscences in the condemned cell, and will make this idea the basis for our story. It has always seemed to me, that Carmen looks like an open girl, but in reality she is always alone, and very much on her own. Spain certainly penetrates the performance, but in a very exquisite and cultured way. In this respect we certainly join together the XIX century and the XXI century in our show.”
Conductor – Alexander Anisimov
Director - Georgy Isaakian (Moscow)
Production designer, costume designer – Elena Solovieva
Lighting Designer – Eugene Ginsburg (St Petersburg)
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevi based on the same name novel by Prosper Merimee
Prologue José, ex-corporal of the royal dragoons, is waiting for execution in jail.
Seville. Soldiers watch the passer-byes. Micaëla comes looking for her fiancé. The guards are relieved. With the new unit come Don José and his captain Zuniga. During the break at the nearby tobacco factory soldiers and local men watch the cigarette girls, the brightest of them being Carmen who throws a flower at José as she leaves. Micaëla visits José in jail. She has brought a letter from his mother. Their tender conversation is interrupted by a guard. José recalls the beginning of his affair with Carmen which started after a quarrel between the cigarette girls. José was ordered to convey Carmen to jail, but let her go instead and was imprisoned himself.
Prologue to Act 2 In custody for letting Carmen escape, José dreams of a date with her.
At Lillas Pastia’s where smugglers meet, Carmen and her companions Mercédès and Frasquita sing and dance before the patrons. A famous toreador Escamillo comes surrounded by his admirers and flirts with Carmen. Zuniga tells Carmen that José is released. The smugglers prepare for their night work, but Carmen refuses to join them: she is expecting José. José, reduced to a private, comes. Carmen dances for him, but her dance is interrupted by a signal horn. José must return to his barracks. Carmen is insulted. As they quarrel, Zuniga arrives to lay his own claim on Carmen. José attacks his superior. This is the point of no return: now he will desert and join the smugglers.
The smugglers’ den. José longs for home and laments his desertion, nothing but his ardent love for Carmen keeps him here. But Carmen loves him no more. The gypsy girls read the cards, and Carmen is predicted death over and again. Escamillo comes to ask Carmen for a date and stirs José’s jealousy. Micaëla arrives as well and tells José that his mother is dying. José has to leave.
Act 4 People of Seville gather for a bullfight. Companions warn Carmen to beware of the jealous José. But Carmen does not care. José fails to placate her and make her return to him, so he kills her.
Epilogue In his death ward, José is ready to pay for his passion murder.