Carmen – Georges Bizet

On Thursday night I had the pleasure to watch Carmen at Theatre Royal, in Glasgow with my friend Jessica.

Charlotte And Jess Carmen

Scottish Opera’s production was full of heat and energy, despite its beige stage design (but I might be biased as my favourite colour is rainbow), Carmen (Justina Gringyte) and Don José (Noah Stewart) shared some passionate moments and a Spanish flair was created through flamenco dancing and ruffled skirts.

The chorus and small roles interacted well with the props to create some really wonderful effects that captured the audience’s attention. A great example of this was during the Toreador fight, appearing in the last act, where the performers stood at an elevated line of rope and acted reactions to the fight in slow motion accompanied by lighting affects similar to those from my high school disco which combined to make time to stand still in the middle of all the excitement.

EFT Carmen Masthead

It was brilliant also to watch two former students of the RCS perform in the chorus; Heather Jameison and Luke Sinclair both stood out due to their great charisma on stage and commitment to their characters.

I found it very useful to watch this production which involved the use of a minimal set and interaction with props as during this year I will be performing in a scene from an opera with my colleagues from the RCS, which will probably be performed in a space with only props to set the scene. I learnt some interesting tricks on how to take advantage of the space during an aria whilst being isolated against large backdrops, also the importance of interacting with other characters on stage to create atmosphere and to progress the story.

Georges_bizet 1875
Georges Bizet

Georges Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ premiered in Paris on the 3rd March 1875 and ran for only 36 performances as the audiences reacted with indifference to the production. Sadly Bizet died at the age of only 36 before the initial run was completed and never knew the success that his opera would eventually achieve.  Following a series of performances around Europe it returned to Paris in 1883, growing in popularity becoming a firm favourite of Parisian audiences.  It is still one of the best known operas and its arias the “Habanera” sung by Carmen and the “Toreador Song” sung by Escamillo are probably two of the most recognisable operatic songs.

Maria Callas – “Habanera”

From the movie Carmen, with Julia Migenes-Johnson as Carmen, Placido Domingo as Don José , and Ruggero Raimondi as El Matador.

The opera was written by Bizet in the style of Opera Comique which allowed for dialogue to be used between the arias. The story demonstrates the destructive power that an unrequited love can produce.

We follow the life of an innocent and naïve young soldier Don José who has been promised in matrimony by his mother to his childhood sweetheart Micaëla.  However he encounters a wild and intoxicating young Gypsy woman who completely captivates him changing the direction of his life forever.

Following his first encounter when he is beguiled by Carmen she manages to persuade him to release her from jail, for his actions he then finds himself locked up for a month.  When he gets released he searches out Carmen who he meets in an Inn. As the evening progresses he knows that he should return to his barracks but she asks him to desert and leave with her.  He wrestles with his emotions but finds the decision is made for him following a fight in the Inn with a superior officer, he now cannot go back and leaves his military life behind and sneaks off with Carmen.

But all soon unravels for Don José as Carmen starts to get bored with him. Micaëla who has been searching for Don José finds them both and pleads with José to leave Carmen and return home.  Despite feeling the sting of Carmen’s sharp tongue José is determined to stay with her until Micaëla tells him that his Mother is dying.  Don José swears to return to Carmen as soon as he can as he is concerned that she has become infatuated with the bullfighter Escamillo.

The story comes to its dramatic conclusion as we find Carmen at the bullfight with Escamillo who sing of their love for each other. Carmen when confronted by Don José throws his ring back at him and attempts to enter the arena to be with Escamillo. Don José blinded by his emotions and filled with rage at being cast aside by Carmen after all his sacrifices for her, lunges at her stabbing her.  As Carmen lays dying Don José proclaims his love for her and as the tragedy comes to its conclusion Don José confesses to killing Carmen.

The production has now moved to tour the Highlands and will end its run in Edinburgh

His Majesty’s Theatre, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen AB25 1GL
Thu 22 Oct 7.30pm•Sat 24 Oct 7.30pm

Eden Court, Bishops Road, Inverness IV3 5SA
Tue 27 Oct 7.15pm•Thu 29 Oct 7.15pm•Sat 31 Oct 7.15pm

Festival Theatre, 13–29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9FT
Tue 3 Nov 7.15pm•Fri 6 Nov 7.15pm•Sun 8 Nov 4.00pm
Thu 12 Nov 7.15pm•Sat 14 Nov 7.15pm

58 thoughts on “Carmen – Georges Bizet

  1. Ever since I was young, I was familiar with the music from ‘Carmen’, via my parents’ LP of the Orchestral music, which I still have, long after their deaths. I have never heard the operatic version, except for such snippets as the Toreador Song, but Monsieur Bizet wrote some bloody good tunes!

    1. How wonderful Martin, that you can keep an object that holds so many memories. The opera is full of melodies that are very catchy, it is very enjoyable to watch and listen to.

      Best wishes

  2. Thanks, very interesting Charlotte – It’s very interesting to see the same Opera in different stage disign – I do not know how it works, but I think the décord should be established in discussions with the director, the singers, the decorator and music (text and instumental) …. otherwise it can create “malfunctions” for spectators … All the best for you !

  3. I have always loved this opera and get as mad as a snake at the universe for denying Bizet the opportunity to wallow in the success all his Bizet-ness had achieved. Even though they weren’t used to those sorts of protagonists, the earlier audiences must have been tone deaf and stupid not to react immediately to that brilliant music.

      1. And of course it is much loved by the mezzo sopranos it was written for. Perhaps one of the reasons I love it so much is how often my mother performed it. (She once sang before Queen Alexander, by the way.)

  4. Interesting they used beige for the set design. But I’m sure the music and the singing could add brilliant colours. Looks like a wonderful show.

    1. That’s very true Arti, it is something that I’m working on the minute, in which I have to paint with my voice so that I can create exciting art that relies on performance skills to enlighten rather than to construct.

      Best wishes

  5. You are becoming as well known for you insightful, honest, thorough reviews as you are for your performing. Fine job! Glad you are having some fun this autumn and as always, thank you for sharing. <3

    1. Thank you Annette, I always think there can be something to take from a performance. As a singer in training I understand all the background work and I think we should do our best to listen and provide our personal opinion with reasons and insight.

      Best wishes

  6. I have seen the film with Migenes-Johnson, which i loved, and several other live ones in London. The last one was one in the live in HD from the Met, with Netrebco (Spelling) as Carmen, and the strange thing, that there was a ballet between scene one and two, a very French idea, which worked quite well. I have read the novella by Merime (spelling) which is fascinating and quite different to the opera. blessings, Charles.

      1. Pleasure, :-). Problem is that there are only so many hours in a day, therefore something looses out, but maybe after finishing studying, and finding your place in the music world, you will have some time. Best wishes and blessings, Charles.

  7. What to say first? First, “rainbow” is not a colour. 🙂 Second, is it cold in Glasgow? Next, I wonder if the writers of these Operas do so from a slight perspective of personal experience. I suppose all writers can. To Don José, Micaëla seems like a nice girl. What are you doing?! And when a girl is ‘bored’ with you…it’s just time to go. Suck it up and move on! My golly, man, have a little pride. lol. Alright, I’m okay, now, Charlotte. Thank you for a lovely post. 🙂

    1. It’s a natural colour Eric ‘rainbow’ 😀 made by God.
      Yes it’s getting chillier by the day, I got all my winter scarves down from,the top of the wardrobe ready.
      Glad you worked it all out ☺️.
      Best wishes

  8. Very nice picture of you Charlotte, with Jessica and it is good that the two of you were able to enjoy yourselves. May the Lord continue to bless you in your last year of College, and just continue to give Him the glory for the blessings in your life.

  9. Such a brilliant post,dearest Charlotte!One of my favourite operas for its powerful music and the plot!Indeed,unrequited love can be destructive.Thank you for including Callas’ Habanera,glad to see they are going to perform in Aberdeen,Inverness and Edinburgh!Love & Hugs to you sweet Charlotte 🙂 <3 xxx

  10. Stunning opera! Great that you could take time out to attend this performance… beautiful music. Must be exciting to see some students from RCS participating in the opera. Have a great week! <3

    1. It’s so important to me to see these professional productions, helped along by great schemes by Scottish Opera, yes it is exciting to see people transition to a professional stage ☺️. Thank you Iris hope you have a lovely week too.
      Best wishes

  11. I agree – it is always interesting to watch a production with a minimal set design. Especially since back in “the day” that is most likely how it was done!

  12. I have never seen Carmen but know many of the arias. Wasn’t Callas superb! I am fascinated by the amazing sets that operas have these days. However, most of the productions I have seen do have fairly neutral backcloths so as not to detract from the action, I suppose.

  13. Sounds like a very unusual production in terms of the staging, but the music supersedes everything. So even if not so colorful, the music certainly is. Reminded me of a production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw in LA, with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The set was a large, three sided white wall with an enormous red feather hanging in the middle. Actors got into and out of the room by climbing ladders up and over the wall! But the play’s the thing as they say!

  14. Given the passion and flair behind the opera Carmen I am surprised the stage was set in tones of beige! Did the background give more vigor to the performance or would you have preferred perhaps fiery red-and-black to offset the players?

    1. I’d prefer it more colourful , I appreciated it when the gypsies were travelling as I could imagine the realistic situation to be quite similar and dank.

      But for me Carmen is so full of life.

      Even the costumes were beige so nothing really popped out. Other than a red corset for Carmen but that didn’t appear till later in the wishes,

  15. Excellent post… I have always liked this Opera…
    The song Habanera is so beautiful and sublime… Plus, it is not so usual to listen to pieces of excerpts of them in french… Am I right?… L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
    Que nul ne peut apprivoiser…
    I used to listen to Mouskouri´s version… truly nice…
    Great post, dear Charlotte… Thanks so much for sharing this overview on Bizet´s piece…
    Sending best wishes. Aquileana 🐉☀️

  16. Such grand music. One night in Seville, I was eating supper at an outdoor restaurant with my son and his wife who lived in Spain many years. I heard the strains of Carmen coming from an old abandoned factory across the way. My son said that was where Carmen the gypsy had been discovered. I don’t know the truth of course, but I know Bizet created his opera based on his experiences in southern Spain.

      1. A very memorable experience indeed. I love Opera, but gave up my season tickets to the Eisenhower Opera House because David kept falling asleep. I mean, who can sleep through The Bartered Bride! And he’s half Russian! And those tickets were pricey.

        BTW after your post I went around the house with Dada-da…dada da… in my head all day. Oops there it is again!

  17. I just love this…music I remember from my childhood (granted it was brought to me by Buggs Bunny, but still so beautiful). Wish you a great day Charlotte!

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