Opéra Bastille - from 12 September to 31 December 2020
3h00 with 1 interval
Language : French
Surtitle : French / English
In few words:
“I am convinced that in ten years, Carmen will be the most popular opera in the world” predicted Tchaikovsky in 1880. In the 21st century, Bizet’s last opera remains one of the most famous works in the opera repertoire. Carmen is a woman of many facets who, when confronted with the complexity of romantic relationships, wishes to live and feel alive. Calixto Bieito offers the opera a new universe in a production that drives the characters into the darkest corners of their psyches. Carmen retains the profoundly Iberian contours of Mérimée’s heroine and the fiery temperament of a woman who lives by petty crime. Calixto Bieito explores the humanity of the characters and frees them from the folklore and clichés generally associated with the myth. “My Carmen is made of flesh and blood, she embodies no one other than herself: a woman of her time with her own DNA.”
A group of soldiers are parading in a square. Micaela, a young peasant girl, questions them as to the whereabouts of Don José. Morales, the sergeant, informs her that he will not arrive until the changing of the guard and then tries to convince the young girl to stay. Disconcerted by his proposal, Micaela takes her leave and vows to return later. The relief guard arrives, accompanied by a band of children mimicking the soldiers. It is midday. As the bell of the tobacco factory sounds, a number of young men arrive to watch the cigarette girls emerge. Carmen, a young gypsy woman, is amongst them. Everyone gathers around her, however, she takes an interest in none of them. Instead, she tries to attract the attention of Don José who seems not to notice her. As the bell indicates the resumption of work, Carmen plucks the flower from her blouse and throws it at him. The crowd disperses. Don José remains alone, troubled in spite of himself. Micaela reappears and together she and Don José reminisce about times past in their village. Don José reads the letter that Micaela has given him. In it, his mother expresses the joy she would feel if he were to marry the young girl. Embarrassed, Micaela, withdraws. Meanwhile, a dispute erupts inside the factory and Carmen injures one of her workmates. On Zuniga’s orders, Don José arrests her. However, Carmen manages to persuade Don José to let her escape and she pushes him to the ground and runs off.
Two months have passed. Carmen learns from lieutenant Zuniga that Don José, who was demoted and imprisoned for allowing her to escape, was released the previous day. Everyone then toasts the toreador Escamillo who responds with a song. However, Carmen pays no attention to his advances. The toreador leaves, followed by the officers. Two smugglers, Le Dancaïre and Le Remendado, urge the young women to accompany them. Carmen refuses and waits instead for Don José. True to the rendezvous he made with Carmen two months earlier, Don José arrives. Carmen dances for him, but, outside, the bugle sounds and Don José is obliged to return to the barracks for roll call. As he is about to leave, Zuniga appears and the two men fight. Carmen calls for help and her smuggler friends appear and disarm Zuniga. Don José no longer has a choice: he is now obliged to follow Carmen and the smugglers.
Several months have elapsed and time has taken its toll on Carmen and Don José. She has grown weary of his jealousy and he reproaches himself for having abandoned everything for her. Carmen sees Mercedes and Frasquita reading the cards and she goes over to join them, only to discover that the cards are foretelling her own death. Micaela makes her way to the smugglers’ camp in search of Don José. She sees him and calls out but he does not hear her. Instead he fires at an unidentified figure approaching the encampment. It is Escamillo. He tells Don José that he has come to find the woman he loves: Carmen. Don José challenges the toreador to a duel with knives. They fight and Escamillo stumbles but Carmen and the smugglers arrive and intervene in the nick of time. Micaela, who is still hiding, is finally discovered. She begs Don José to return with her to see his dying mother. Carmen does not try to hold him back. He leaves but not before issuing a warning to her.
It is the day of the corrida. Escamillo makes his entrance with Carmen on his arm. The crowd flocks into the arena. Frasquita alerts Carmen to the fact that Don José is hiding nearby. Carmen refuses to flee and she remains alone in the square opposite Don José. In despair, he begs her to come away with him to start a new life together but Carmen is adamant: She will not go with him. Don José begs her again. In the arena, the crowd cheers Escamillo. Carmen is eager to go inside. “He’s the one I love now” she tells Don José. In a final gesture of defiance, she throws away the ring he gave her. Beside himself with rage, Don José kills her.