Georges Bizet’s Carmen

Georges Bizet’s Carmen

Carmen is a beloved classic among opera audiences and the perfect production for someone trying opera for the first time. Bizet’s immortal score features one recognizable melody after another, from the overture to the seductive “Habanera” to the stirring “Toreador’s Song.”

Carmen
packs all the sizzle of Spanish culture into a sexy thriller that traces Don José’s ill-fated obsession with the seductive gypsy Carmen –
the ultimate femme fatale.

He sacrifices everything to be with her. Once a prominent and respected soldier, Don José’s life is in ruins – a fugitive on the run. When handsome matador Escamillo captures Carmen’s affections and Don José is cast aside, his jealousy and vengeance consume him. A fiery confrontation ensues outside the bullring with deadly consequences.

Sung in French with English translations projected above the stage.

March 14 - 16, 2014 Carol Morsani Hall
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Show Dates & Times

Fri., March 14 • 8 p.m.
Sun., March 16 • 2 p.m.

Meet The Artists

Italian mezzo-soprano ALESSANDRA VOLPE (Carmen) has already made a strong impact on the opera world, having made her Teatro alla Scala debut to rave reviews in Die Lustige Witwe conducted by Maestro Asher Fisch. Her United States debut soon followed, performing the role of Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri for the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, in which she was said to have “a bell-like voice that makes the evening delightful.” Upcoming engagements include the title role in Carmen with Opera Lyra Ottawa; Nabucco in Tenefiere, Italy; and she joins the Metropolitan Opera roster for their productions of I Puritani and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Worldwide engagements have included performances of Emilia in Otello in her Bayerische Staatsoper of München debut; her Glyndebourne Festival debut in Rusalka; Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia in Santiago de Compostela; La Cenerentola at Reggio Emilia’s Theater; and Clotilde in Norma at the Parco della Musica in Rome under Maestro Kent Nagano. Volpe has performed frequently with the Foundazione Lirico Sinfonica Petruzzelli di Bari as Tisbe in La Cenerentola, Jenny in Britten’s A Beggar’s Opera, in Suor Angelica, Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny, and in Debussy’s Damoiselle Elue. Volpe graduated summa cum laude from the Conservatoirio Niccolò Piccinni in Bari in piano and vocal studies. In October 2010, she won the 11th International Competition of Maria Kraja in Tirana.

JOHN PICKLE (Don José) is quickly making a name for himself.  Last season, Pickle enjoyed performances as Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera with Opera Tampa, Erik with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Utah Festival and Opera, Erik in Der fliegende Holländer, a role in which he just debuted with Los Angeles Opera. Additional appearances included Calaf in Turandot with Mobile Opera; Canio in I Pagliacci with Michigan Opera Theatre; Turiddu and Canio in Opera Delaware’s double-bill production of Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci; the title role of Candide with Fresno Grand Opera; Cavaradossi in Tosca, Erik in Der fliegende Holländer; Rodolfo in La bohème for Baltimore Concert Opera; the Duke in Rigoletto with Center City Opera Theater; and Judge Danforth in The Crucible with Utah Festival Opera. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2008 performing the Mozart Requiem conducted by John Rutter and Schubert’s Mass in G, and performed the Mozart Requiem in the famed hall again last spring. Additional work has included Florentine Opera’s Gala Concert, an opera highlights concert with the Jefferson City Symphony; Victor Herbert’s 150th Birthday Celebration with Little Orchestra Society; and a concert of opera’s greatest hits with Opera Idaho and the Boise Philharmonic.

JASON HOWARD (baritone) Raised in the rich singing tradition of South Wales, Howard is recognized as one of the United Kingdom’s leading performers on the international operatic stage. Long known as an outstanding performer in the French and Italian repertoire, his most recent success as Wotan in David McVicars’s wonderful production of Wagner’s Ring Der Nibelungen at the Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, one review described his recent debut in Die Walkure, as ‘the Wotan of his generation.’ Upon leaving his first career as a fireman he took up studies in London at Trinity and the Royal Colleges of music with John Wakefield and Norman Bailey respectively. He commenced his career at Scottish Opera, subsequently singing with all the major UK opera companies and orchestras. Highlights included his debut at the Royal Opera House and Paris Opera as Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme and his debut at Chicago Lyric Opera as Adam Brant in Mourning Becomes Electra (also performed in Seattle and New York) and Alfio in Cav/Pag for Washington National Opera. In the winter of 2009, 19 years after his performances of Ravenal in the RSC/Opera North production of Showboat he returned to the stage musical with performances of Emile de Beque in the Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific.

NATHALIE PAULIN (Micaëla) Soprano Nathalie Paulin has established herself in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Far East as an interpretive artist of the very first rank. Winner of a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Opera Performance, reviewing from Chicago, John van Rhein noted that “Paulin in particular is a real find; her rich, agile voice possesses great depth and allure, her manner radiates sensuous charm.” She debuted for L’Opéra de Montréal as Mélisande in Pélléas et Mélisande and for Chicago Opera Theater as Galatea in Acis and Galatea and as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro for Cincinnati Opera. Other roles include Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte and Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera. Frequently heard on both the French and English CBC networks, she is a past winner of the Montréal Symphony Competition and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Montréal. She won the Dvorak prize and has also received awards and prizes from the George London Foundation in New York, the Young Mozart Singers’ Competition in Toronto and the Canadian Music Competition.

DANIEL LIPTON is widely regarded as one of today’s most exciting and creative conductors, whose superb performances of opera and the concert repertoire have gained him international acclaim. He was appointed music director and chief conductor of the Anhaltische Philharmonie and general music director of the opera company in Dessau, Germany. He became artistic director of Opera Ontario, Canada, and presented the Canadian premieres of Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, Verdi’s I Due Foscari and Massenet’s Portrait de Manon, along with other major operas. Under Lipton’s direction, Opera Ontario has enjoyed not only the highest artistic accolades, but also notable financial success, while greatly expanding the audiences in the process. He has been primarily responsible for the growth of Opera Ontario, making it one of Canada’s most important and artistically innovative companies. His annual POPERA™ galas have met with widespread popularity and acclaim. Before his time in Ontario, Lipton was appointed music director and principal conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Colombia in Bogotà and conducted 33 programs a year with them. In Colombia he rebuilt the symphony orchestra and created a national opera company. He was appointed artistic director of the Opera de Colombia and produced 30 operas. Both organizations were raised to the highest international standard of performance because of his unwavering commitment to excellence. Previous posts include music director with Houston Grand Opera and artistic director of the San Antonio Festival. He has also held positions with the Zürich Opera, the Teatro Comunale in Bologna and Florence, American Ballet Theatre and the Denver Symphony Orchestra. In 2001, he was appointed artistic director of the EurOrchester for the European Classic Festival, (Triennale) for which he has conducted during the past 11 years.

FRANK MCCLAIN (Co-director) is the managing director for Opera Tampa and was formally the artistic director of Florida Opera Theatre, the opera/musical theatre production manager for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. For Opera Tampa, McClain has directed The Merry Widow, Anton Coppola’s Fond Farewells Concert and Bon Appétit. Recent directing projects include Rigoletto and La Bohéme for the Orlando Philharmonic, I Pagliacci and Don Pasquale for Vero Beach Opera, The Barber of Seville and Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium for Florida Opera Theatre, Porgy and Bess for the Akron Symphony Orchestra, Carousel and How to Succeed... for The Orlando Philharmonic, Company for Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando, Guy and Dolls and Porgy and Bess both co-productions between the Orlando Philharmonic and Mad Cow Theatre. He was the resident stage director and co-director of the Studio Artist Program for Orlando Opera where he directed Il Trovatore, L’elisir d’amore, Candide, Le nozze di Figaro and numerous out reach productions. Addition non opera directorial credits include the Beaumarchais play The Marriage of Figaro at the University of Central Florida, Bouncers, Mass Appeal, Why We Have A Body and Joan Crawford’s House Party which received a Patron’s Pick Award at the Orlando International Fringe Festival. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in vocal performance from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, and has performed as a singer and actor all across the country, including  at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida.

 

About the Show

Music by: Georges Bizet
Libretto by: Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Havléy, after the novella by Prosper Mèrimèe
Premiere: Paris Opèra Comique, March 3, 1875

Synopsis:

ACT I.
Corporal Moralès and the soldiers while away the time watching the passers-by, among whom is Micaëla, a peasant girl from Navarre. She asks Moralès if he knows Don José, and is told that he is a corporal in another platoon expected shortly to relieve the present guard. Avoiding their invitation to step inside the guardroom, Micaëla escapes. A trumpet call heralds the approach not only of the relief guard but also of a gang of street urchins imitating their drill. As the guards are changed, Moralès tells José that a girl is looking for him. Zuniga, the lieutenant in command of the new guard, questions Corporal José about the tobacco factory. A stranger in Seville, Zuniga is apprehensive of the dangerous atmosphere of the locale.

The factory bell rings and the men of Seville gather round the female workers as they return after their lunch break. The gypsy Carmen is awaited with anticipation. When the men gather round her, she tells them love obeys no known laws (Habañera: "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle"). Only one man pays no attention to her -- Don José. Carmen throws a flower at him. The women go back into the factory and the crowd disperses.

Micaëla returns, bringing news of José's mother. She has sent Micaëla, who lives with her, to give him a letter ("Parle-moi de ma mère"). José feels that his mother is protecting him from afar. When he starts to read her letter, Micaëla runs off in embarrassment since it suggests that he marry her. At the moment that he decides to obey, a fight is heard from within the factory. The girls stream out with sharply conflicting accounts of what has occurred, but it is certain that Carmen and one of her fellow workers quarreled and that the other girl was wounded. Carmen, led out by José, refuses to answer any of Zuniga's questions. José is ordered to tie her up and take her to prison. Carmen entices him to go dancing at Lillas Pastia's tavern outside the walls of Seville (Séguedille: "Près des remparts de Séville"). Mesmerized, José agrees to help her escape. He unties the rope and, as they leave for prison, Carmen slips away. Don José is arrested.

ACT II. Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès entertain Zuniga and other officers ("Les tringles des sistres tintaient"). Zuniga tells Carmen that José has been released this very day. A torchlight procession in honor of the bullfighter Escamillo is heard, and the officers invite him in. He describes the excitements of his profession, in particular the amorous rewards that follow a successful bullfight (Toreador's Song: "Votre toast"). Escamillo then propositions Carmen, but she replies that she is engaged for the moment. He says he will wait. Carmen refuses to leave with Zuniga, who threatens to return later.

When the company has departed, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado enter. They have business in hand for which their regular female accomplices are essential ("Nous avons en tête une affaire"). Frasquita and Mercédès are game, but Carmen refuses to leave Seville: she is in love. Her friends are incredulous. José's song is heard in the distance. ("Dragon d'Alcala"). The smugglers withdraw. Carmen tells José that she has been dancing for his officers. When he reacts jealously, she agrees to entertain him alone (Finale: "Je vais danser en votre honneur"). Bugles are heard sounding the retreat. José says that he must return to barracks. Stupefied, Carmen mocks him, but he answers by producing the flower she threw and telling her how its faded scent sustained his love during the long weeks in prison (Flower Song: "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée"). But she replies that he doesn't love her; if he did he would desert and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains. When, torn with doubts, he finally refuses, she dismisses him contemptuously. As he leaves, Zuniga bursts in. In jealous rage José attacks him. The smugglers return, separate them, and put Zuniga under temporary constraint ("Bel officier"). José now has no choice but to desert and join the smugglers.

ACT III. The gang enters with contraband and pauses for a brief rest while Dancaïre and Remendado go on a reconnaissance mission. Carmen and José quarrel, and José gazes regretfully down to the valley where his mother is living. Carmen advises him to join her. The women turn the cards to tell their fortunes: Frasquita and Mercédès foresee rich and gallant lovers, but Carmen's cards spell death, for her and for José. She accepts the prophecy (Card Song: "En vain pour éviter les réponses amères"). Remendado and Dancaïre return announcing that customs officers are guarding the pass: Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercédès know how to deal with them ("Quant au douanier"). All depart. Micaëla appears, led by a mountaineer. She says that she fears nothing so much as meeting the woman who has turned the man she once loved into a criminal ("Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante"). But she hurries away in fear when a shot rings out. It is José firing at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo, transporting bulls to Seville ("Je suis Escamillo"). When he refers to the soldier whom Carmen once loved, José reveals himself and they fight. Carmen and the smugglers return and separate them. Escamillo invites everyone, especially Carmen, to be his guests at the next bullfight in Seville. José is at the end of his tether. Micaëla is discovered, and she begs José to go with her to his mother but he furiously refuses ("Dût-il m'en couter la vie"). Micaëla then reveals that his mother is dying. José promises Carmen that they will meet again. As José and Micaëla leave, Escamillo is heard singing in the distance.

ACT IV. Among the excited crowd cheering the bullfighters are Frasquita and Mercédès. Carmen enters on Escamillo's arm ("Si tu m'aimes"). Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen that José has been seen in the crowd. She says that she is not afraid. José enters. He implores her to forget the past and start a new life with him. She tells him calmly that everything between them is over. She will never give in: she was born free and free she will die. While the crowd is heard cheering Escamillo, José tries to prevent Carmen from joining her new lover. Carmen finally loses her temper, takes from her finger the ring that José once gave her, and throws it at his feet. José stabs her, and then confesses to the murder of the woman he loved.

-- Rodney Milnes
Metropolitan Opera

Bizet’s Carmen – musical selections
These are the musical selections you will hear during the opera with a brief explanation of the scene.

Georges Bizet composed Carmen – the last of his sic completed operas – when he was only 36 years old. Although it ultimately found its place as Bizet’s finest operatic masterpiece, judged by many as one of the greatest operas ever written, it came at the end of a musical career fraught with anxiety and disappointment. 

Act I

"Sur la place, chacun passe" (The place, everyone goes)
A group of soldiers relaxes in the square, waiting for the changing of the guard and commenting on the passers-by.

“Avec la garde montante” (With the new guard)
José arrives with the new guard, which is greeted and imitated by a crowd of urchins

"La cloche a sonné" (The bell’s rung, break is over)
As the factory bell rings, the cigarette girls emerge and exchange banter with young men in the crowd.

"L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Love is a rebellious bird)
Carmen enters and sings her provocative habanera on the untameable nature of love.

"Parle-moi de ma mère!" (Tell me about my mother!)
Micaëla returns and gives José a letter and a kiss from his mother.

"Tra la la... Coupe-moi, brûle-moi" (Tra la la … cut me, burning me)
When challenged, Carmen answers with mocking defiance.

“Seguidilla” (Seguidilla is a dance she refers to)
Carmen sings of a night of dancing and passion with her lover—whoever that may be.

Act 2

"Les tringles des sistres tintaient" (Rods, sistrums jingled)
Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès are entertaining Zuniga and other officers.

"Vivat, vivat le Toréro" (Viva, viva the bullfighter)
Outside, a chorus and procession announces the arrival of the toreador Escamillo.

"Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre" (Your toast, I can make - Toreador Song),
Escamillo introduces himself and sets his sights on Carmen, who brushes him aside.

"Nous avons en tête une affaire" (We have a case in mind)
The smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado arrive and reveal their plans to dispose of some recently acquired contraband.

"Je vais danser en votre honneur ... La la la" (I will dance in your honor)
 Carmen treats José to a private exotic dance, but her song is joined by a distant bugle call from the barracks.

"La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (The Flower Song - The flower that you threw me)
When José says he must return to duty, she mocks him, and he answers by showing her the flower that she threw to him in the square.

"Suis-nous à travers la campagne" (Follow us through the countryside)
Having attacked a superior officer, José now has no choice but to join Carmen and the smugglers.

Act 3

"Écoute, écoute, compagnons" (Listen, listen, companions)
Carmen and José enter with the smugglers and their booty.

"En vain pour éviter” (Card Aria – It is in vain to try to avoid)
Carmen reads her fortune from a deck of cards and finds that they predict death for her. Again and again she tries but it still comes up death. She then sings that fate is unavoidable for the cards never lie.
 
"Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" (I say that nothing frightens me)
Micaëla enters with a guide, seeking José and determined to rescue him from Carmen.

"Je suis Escamillo, toréro de Grenade" (I, Escamillo, the badge of a bullfighter)
José and Escamillo fight over Carmen.

"Holà, holà José" (Stop, stop José)
The fight is interrupted by the returning smugglers and girls.

Act 4

"Les voici ! Voici la quadrille!" (Here they are! Here is the quadrille!)
Note: a quadrille is a set of four horsemen in a tournament.
 Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercédès are among the crowd awaiting the arrival of the bullfighters.

“Si tu m'aimes, Carmen” (If you love me, Carmen)
Escamillo enters with Carmen, and they express their mutual love.

"C'est toi ! C'est moi !" (It’s you. It’s me.)
Alone, Carmen is confronted by the desperate José

"Ah! Carmen! ma Carmen adorée!" (Ah! Carmen! Carmen my beloved!)
José kneels and sings as the crowd exits the arena. José confesses to killing the woman he loved.

Program notes by Gene Cropsey, Opera Tampa League member 

Georges Bizet composed Carmen—the last of his six completed operas—when he was only 36 years old.  Although it ultimately found its place as Bizet’s finest operatic masterpiece, judged by many as one of the greatest operas ever written, it came at the end of a musical career fraught with anxiety and disappointment. 

Like most French composers, Bizet shaped his musical skills at the Paris Conservatorie.  Having entered at the age of 9, he capped his exceptional student career by winning the coveted Prix de Rome.  In 1860, following three relatively unproductive years in that city, he returned to Paris where, for the rest of his life, he faced unrelenting personal and professional setbacks.  His opera, Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) premiered in 1863, but garnered little public support and was treated severely by the critics.  Bizet went on to complete three more operas during the next decade, but all were received with little enthusiasm.  The Parisian critics caustically branded them “Wagnerian.”  His operas were premiered only at the smaller Parisian theaters, the elite Paris Opèra having rebuffed him, unwilling to take on a composer  it considered a mere beginner.

Throughout his career, Bizet was distressed over his critics’ unwillingness and inability to embrace his music.  His failures weighed heavily on him, causing him to develop insomnia, as well as an argumentative and nervous disposition, made worse by his neurotic wife and mother-in-law.  To make matters more intolerable, he suffered from angina and painful abscesses of the throat. 

“They make out that I am obscure, complicated, tedious,” Bizet once wrote, “more fettered by technical skill than lit by inspiration.”  His contemporaries, however—  Gounod, Berlioz, Halevy, Saint-Saens and others—took Bizet’s work seriously, recognizing its unique originality.

In 1872, Camille du Locle, co-director of the Opèra Comique, asked Bizet to collaborate with librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy on a new full-length opera.  By this time, Bizet’s health was worsening, but he eagerly accepted, proposing that it be based on Prosper Merimee’s novella Carmen.  He knew many French critics were prejudice against him, but when the opera was completed in 1875, Bizet was certain they would at last be satisfied.  “This time,” he wrote, “I have composed a work that is all clarity and vivacity, full of color and melody.”  But once again he was to be disappointed.

Opèra Comique was an operatic genre designed to appeal to families of bourgeois respectability who wanted to be artificially entertained.  But with Carmen, Bizet transformed it by vividly expressing the torments inflicted by sexual passion and jealousy.  It proved to be too much for the Parisian audience, who were shocked by the blatant expression of sexual desire, girls smoking and fighting on stage, and the brutal murder.

The critics responded more fiercely than ever.  They branded it “educated noise,” “audacious Wagnerism,” “shocking and repugnant.”  One proclaimed that the stage of the  Opera Comique was no place for “characters who have sunk to the sewers of society.”  Librettist Jean Dupin groused, “Your Carmen is a flop, a disaster!  The music never stops.  That’s not music!  That’s not an opera!  A man meets a woman.  He finds her pretty…He loves her, she loves him… She doesn’t love him anymore… He kills her… And you call that an opera?  It’s a crime, do you hear me, a crime!” 

Three months after the premiere, Bizet died believing his work a failure.  Later that year, Carmen was produced in Vienna with the spoken dialogue replaced by recitatives composed by Ernest Guiraud.  Soon, Carmen began to conquer the entire operatic world, with audiences, critics and musicians singing its praises.  Richard Strauss believed it to be unrelieved perfection.  “If you want to learn how to orchestrate,” he said, “don’t study Wagner’s scores, study the score of Carmen.”

Although he composed Carmen in the traditional framework of aria and spoken dialogue in an era dominated by Verdi and Wagner, Bizet achieved a vital and original music drama whose naturalism and tragic power profoundly influenced the realistic verismo composers to follow, notably Mascagni and Puccini.

Carmen had its New York premiere, sung in Italian, on Oct. 23 1878 at the Mapleson Academy of Music.  The Metropolitan Opera first performed it, also in Italian, on Jan. 5, 1884.  It was first performed by Opera Tampa on December 2, 2005, under the baton of Maestro Anton Coppola. 
 

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