Georges Bizet’s opera to Henri Meilhac’s and Ludovic Halévy’s libretto, based on the eponymous novelette by Prosper Mérimée
World premiere: March 3rd, 1875 at Parise Opéra Comique
Premiere on May 26th, 2011 in the Estonian National Opera
When Carmen was first staged in France (1875), it received negative feedback: its plot was considered immoral and characters vulgar. Bizet shocked the audience by portraying ordinary people on stage – villagers, factory workers, gypsies, smugglers, and by showing the death of the main character on stage. At the premiere, the actors were booed off and the performance was denounced by the critics. Pyotr Tchaikovsky understood the greatness of this piece and predicted a brilliant future for the opera: “Ten years from now it will be the most popular opera in the world”. And he was right, because Carmen bursts with life, passion, liberty and dynamics.
Bizet died only three months after the premiere never knowing that „Carmen“ would become one of the most popular operas in such a short time, being performed in the opera theatres all over the world, and that the toreador’s song and main character’s habanera would be the symbols of opera music for many generations. In the Estonian National Opera, Carmen will be staged by Walter Sutcliffe whose fanciful staging of Così fan tutte was extremely successful last season.
Sutcliffe considers Carmen multifaceted. “Bizet’s Carmen has many faces. It mixes tense psychological drama and melodrama, documentary and dark comedy, working in formats ranging from the panoramic to the close up, using styles that range from grand opera to intimate spoken theatre to the overtly showy popular musical. Our production will explore these differences, while allowing the documentary style elements of the narrative to put us firmly in the world of Jose and Carmen – to observe their story as it plays out in 19th century Sevilla.”