There is no other woman in the world of opera like Carmen, the stunning Spanish gypsy, who is as passionate in her loves as she is for her freedom, totally unfettered by any code.
An operatic tour-de-force, Carmen will be sung in French with English supertitles during the simulcast from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera to theaters around the world this Saturday, November 1, at 12:55pm.
Opera lovers in West Virginia can see the live broadcast in Barboursville, Nitro, and in Granville/Morgantown. An encore will be shown on Wednesday, November 5, at 6:30pm. The approximate running time is three hours and forty minutes. Maestro Heras-Casado will conduct this mesmerizing production by Richard Eyre.
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The music for the opera was written by French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875) to a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy based on Prosper Merimee’s novel Carmen. This opera in 4 acts premiered at the Opera-Comique in Paris on March 3, 1875.
As famous as the opera is today, Carmen was not received well by all of the patrons at its premiere opening. Its “indecency” shocked the Opera-Comique’s conservative audience and critics at the time described it as “immoral” and “low.”
Set in Seville in 1830, the seductive Carmen, sung by mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, convinces a young corporal, Don Jose, sung by tenor Aleksandrs Antonenlco, to leave his current sweetheart, Micaela, and desert his regiment. She soon tires of Don Jose and leaves him for the flashy and roguish toreador Escamillo, sung by Ildar Abdrazakov. Passions boil to a tragic ending as Carmen tries to join the victorious bullfighter in the arena after her discarded lover fails to convince her to return. It is opera at its core-betrayal, jealousy, metamorphosis from law-abiding soldier to thief, smuggling, even murder.
“Carmen always reacts to the state of mind and character of the other protagonists. Don Jose is a simple soldier caught in a passion beyond his comprehension, and we witness the gradual disintegration of what was once a man of character. Carmen watches the vacillating demoralized man and moves in for the kill at the right moment.” (Paul Henry Lang)
Bizet bestows on this musical score his greatest inventive powers of memorable melodies, colorful harmonies and rich orchestration. He understood how to compose for the human voice. “I have written a work that is all clarity and vivacity, full of color and melody,” he remarked.
Carmen belongs to the tradition of French opera comique, as we can tell both from the spoken dialogue and from the two-verse songs.
If you have never witnessed an opera , Carmen is a special treat. You will leave the theater singing or humming the music you just heard.
Dr. Larry Stickler is professor of music at Marshall University.