Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Carmen
Radio Broadcast of Saturday, February 23, 12:30 P.M.
The death of Carmen at Don José's hand (Lee, Rachvelishvili)
© Beth Bergman 2013
The 2012–13 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
Music by Georges Bizet
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, after the novel by Prosper Merimée
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Moralès bar., TREVOR SCHEUNEMANN
Micaela soprano, EKATERINA
Don José tenor, NIKOLAI SCHUKOFF
Zuniga bass, RICHARD BERNSTEIN
Carmen mezzo, ANITA RACHVELISHVILI
Frasquita soprano, DANIELLE PASTIN
Mercédès mezzo, JENNIFER JOHNSON
Escamillo bar., DWAYNE CROFT
Dancaire baritone, MARCO NISTICÒ
Remendado tenor, SCOTT SCULLY
Conducted by MICHELE MARIOTTI
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera Ballet
The Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus
Production: Richard Eyre
Set and costume designer: Rob Howell
Lighting designer: Peter Mumford
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Stage director: Tomer Zvulun
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Associate costume designer: Irene Bohan
Musical preparation: Steven Eldredge,
Howard Watkins, Pierre Vallet
Assistant stage directors: Jonathon Loy,
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Children's chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
Fight director: Nigel Poulton
|Production a gift of Mrs. Paul Desmarais Sr.
Revival a gift of The Dr. M. Lee Pearce
|THE SCENES|| ||Timings (ET) |
| ||(Seville) || |
|ACT II||Lillas Pastia's tavern||–2:12|
|ACT III||The smugglers' hideout|
in the mountains above
|ACT IV||Outside the bullring in Seville|| –3:56|
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
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This performance is also being broadcast
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ACT I. In a square in Seville, soldiers watch the passing crowd. Micaela arrives in search of her sweetheart, Don José, a corporal. A fellow officer, Moralès, tells her José will be along soon; when Moralès offers himself as a substitute, she leaves hastily. As the guard changes, children imitate the arriving soldiers, one of whom is José. Girls from the cigarette factory come to smoke and chat. Carmen, a Gypsy who works in the factory, flirts with the local men, airing her philosophy of life: love is a wild bird that cannot be tamed. José sits apart, distracted. Drawn by his indifference, Carmen tosses him a flower as the work bell calls the girls back inside. His musings on the bewitching "sorceress" are interrupted by Micaela, who brings news of José's mother. She has sent him a kiss, which the girl delivers shyly. No sooner has she left than a disturbance is heard in the factory: Carmen is involved in a fight. The girls run out, arguing over who started it. Lt. Zuniga orders José to arrest Carmen. Her wrists bound, she is left alone with José, who forbids her to speak to him. Instead, she flirtatiously sings "to herself" about the rendezvous she might make with "a certain officer" who has taken her fancy. José, intoxicated, agrees to let her escape; when she pushes him to the ground and runs off, he is arrested for his negligence.
Carmen encounters Escamillo (Keith Miller as Zuniga, Rachvelishvili, Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo)
© Beth Bergman 2013
ACT II. A month later, at Lillas Pastia's inn, Carmen sings a Gypsy song and dances for the customers. The matador Escamillo arrives, boasting of his exploits. He is attracted to Carmen, who puts off his amorous advances. When the inn closes, Dancaire and Remendado try to convince Frasquita, Mercédès and Carmen to accompany them on their next smuggling trip. The girls are game, except for Carmen, who says she is in love with José and is awaiting his return from prison. The others laugh at her, then depart as José is heard approaching. Carmen sings and dances for him, but when a distant bugle sounds the retreat, he says he must return to the barracks. Carmen mocks his blind obedience, saying he doesn't love her; he replies by telling her how he has kept the flower she threw, the scent of its wilted blossom conjuring up her image in his prison cell. He refuses her suggestion that he desert the army to join her wild mountain life, but when Zuniga breaks in, looking for Carmen, the jealous José attacks his superior. Carmen summons the other Gypsies, who hold Zuniga captive until they can get away. José, now an outlaw, has no choice but to join their band. The Gypsies rejoice in their life of freedom.
ACT III. In the smugglers' mountain hideout, José regrets that he has betrayed his mother's hopes. Carmen finds his homesickness and obsessive jealousy tiresome. Telling him he may as well leave, she joins her friends, reading fortunes in the cards. Frasquita foresees a lover for herself, Mercédès a rich husband, but Carmen sees only death. When the Gypsies leave José as lookout, Micaela enters, frightened but determined to find him. She hides at the sound of a shot, fired by José as a warning to a trespasser - Escamillo. When it becomes clear that the two men are rivals, they start to fight but are separated by the Gypsies. Escamillo invites them all to his next bullfight and leaves. Remendado discovers Micaela, who has come to beg José to return home to his ailing mother. Carmen dismisses him willingly, but José vows to find her again after he has seen his mother.
ACT IV. In Seville's Plaza de Toros, the crowd gathers for the bullfight, hailing Escamillo. He and Carmen declare their love, and he enters the ring. Carmen's friends warn that José has been spotted nearby, looking desperate, but she is a fatalist and defiantly remains to face him. He enters and begs her to return to him. She replies that everything is finished between them, and she tosses in his face a ring he once gave her. The crowd is heard cheering Escamillo. When Carmen tries to run past José, he stabs her, then falls by her body in despair.
The children of Seville
© Beatriz Schiller 2013
Georges Bizet, born in Paris in 1838 to parents who were both musicians, entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of nine. There he went on to study with Fromental Halévy, composer of La Juive, whose daughter, Geneviève, Bizet later married. In 1857, he won a Prix de Rome scholarship; his first opera, the one-act Le Docteur Miracle, dates from that year. In his thirty-seven years, he wrote six published operas; eight others were unpublished or incomplete. His reputation rests on the last of his works, Carmen, and on his incidental music for Daudet's play L'Arlésienne, though his first grand opera, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, is periodically revived.
Carmen began to take shape in Bizet's mind in 1872. The subject was drawn from the short novel Carmen (1852), by Prosper Mérimée, in turn inspired by the writing of George Henry Borrow, an Englishman who had lived among the Gypsies in Spain. The libretto was the work of Halévy's nephew, Ludovic, and Henri Meilhac, both experienced in the opéra comique form, which stipulated spoken dialogue.
The premiere audience at the Opéra Comique, March 3, 1875, turned "glacial" by Act IV. Carmen did not start to become a real success in Paris until its revival seven years later. Bizet had died three months after the premiere, believing his work a failure. After his death, Ernest Guiraud composed music for the spoken dialogue for Vienna in 1875.
New York first heard Carmen in Italian, on October 23, 1878, at the Academy of Music. The Met premiere, on January 5, 1884, was also in Italian. The French original was introduced on December 20, 1893, with Emma Calvé (Carmen), Jean de Reszke (Don José) and Emma Eames (Micaela) heading the cast. The opera is the most frequently performed French work in the Met's history, with 945 performances to its credit in New York and on tour as of its last revival, at the end of the 2007-08 season. The Met's new staging, directed by Richard Eyre, had its premiere on December 31, 2009, with Elina Garanča and Roberto Alagna as Carmen and Don José.
Carmen and Escamillo outside the bullring (Rachvelishvili, Ketelsen)
© Beatriz Schiller 2013
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Anita Rachvelishvili and Yonghoon
Lee as Carmen and Don José at the
© Beth Bergman 2013
Susan McClary's energetic, opinionated Cambridge Opera Handbook on Carmen is not without its detractors, but it is the most readily available source on the opera. The 1977 Greenwood Press reprint of Mina Curtiss's superb 1958 Bizet and his World is hard to find but well worth seeking, as is the paperback reprint of Winton Dean's Bizet (Fitzhenry and Whiteside). Dean's pithy entry on Carmen is a highlight of his entertaining (but out of print) Essays on Opera (Oxford). Rodney Milnes's essay on Carmen recordings in Alan Blyth's Opera on Record (Colophon paperback, out of print) is a concise guide to the merits of the multitude of Carmen textual variants available on disc.
On CD, Victoria de los Angeles is a bewitching Gypsy on Thomas Beecham's elegant 1958–59 recording (EMI), which uses the Guiraud recitatives, as does Fritz Reiner's shrewd, expressive 1951 reading starring the incomparable Risë Stevens (RCA). Georg Solti makes selective, theatrically satisfying use of the controversial Fritz Oeser edition of the score — including some original Carmen dialogue — in his 1975 recording (Decca), with Tatiana Troyanos and Plácido Domingo. Domingo is also Don José in the compact, fiery 1977 performance led by Claudio Abbado (DG), whose Carmen is of a piece with the virtues of his prima donna, Teresa Berganza. Regina Resnik and Mario Del Monaco are the bold, effective principals on Thomas Schippers's 1963 performance (Decca). The most exhilarating use of dialogue is on André Cluytens's 1950 Opéra Comique set (EMI), with the luscious, witty Solange Michel its practiced Gypsy. Roberto Alagna's passionate Don José is available on EMI's 2002 recording, singing opposite the Carmen of Angela Gheorghiu, who offers the first recorded performance of an alternate Act I aria for the Gypsy, evidently rejected by Galli-Marie, who created the role for Bizet in 1875.
On DVD, the performance of choice is Francesca Zambello's 2007 Covent Garden staging, with Anna Caterina Antonacci and Jonas Kaufmann in dazzling form. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Elina Garanča, Roberto Alagna, Barbara Frittoli and Teddy Tahu Rhodes in a 2010 Live in HD presentation of the Metropolitan Opera production, directed by Richard Eyre. Franco Zeffirelli's lavish take on Carmen is available in its 1978 Wiener Staatsoper incarnation (TDK), with Carlos Kleiber pacing Domingo and Elena Obraztsova, as well as in a more recent capture of an Arena di Verona performance starring the comely Marina Domashenko (TDK). A 1967 film of Carmen, its soundtrack conducted by Herbert von Karajan, features Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Mirella Freni and Justino Díaz as its powerful principals (DG).
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