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Carmen – Georges Bizet

October 18, 2015 — 58 Comments

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