• Carmen: The Opera in the Opera House (stagings)

    This article is to talk about some significant past and present stagings of Bizet's Carmen. It is part of Opera Lively's In-Depth series on Carmen. (We'll be happy to provide photo credits when known - in many cases below we couldn't find them, but we're using these photos in good faith as fair usage, in the spirit of publicizing the work of these artists).


    Riga, 2007

    Latvijas Nacional Opera production by Andrejs Zagars, set design Monika Pormale, music director Karel Mark Chichon; Elina Garanca as Carmen, and Laimonis Pautienis as Escamillo.

    In this avant-garde updated production, the action is set in colorful contemporary Cuba, with its cigar factories. The military presence makes sense given the Cuban political environment, and so does the charged sexuality which is a prominent feature of the local culture in this tropical island. Ms. Garanca is featured as a hot Latina brunette in tight clothes. Escamillo instead of being a bullfighter, is a boxer (since boxing is Cuba's most beloved and popular sport, reproducing the prominence of bullfighting in Spain), dressed in exuberant red and blue shiny sports attire. This was Ms. Garanca's debut in the role, and she played a cool and dominant Carmen, well aware of her physical attributes that drove men around her to madness, which was believably rendered by this stunningly beautiful singer.


    Zürich 1981

    In contrast, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production with conductor Rolf Reuter at the Zürich Opernhaus with Agnes Baltsa as Carmen and Jon Buzea as Don José was set in Spain and drew on period costumes, featuring a fierce Ms. Baltsa with deep cleavage.


    Vancouver 2009

    Vancouver Opera may have found some inspiration there when they featured extremely good-looking singer Rinat Shaham in 2009, in another traditionalist production. Photo credit Tim Mateson.


    New York City 2010

    Ms. Garanca again dazzled audiences with her sultry looks in the Met production of 2010 alongside Roberto Alagna, which was broadcast live on HD to cinemas around the world. Photo copyrights belong to Ken Howard and the Metropolitan Opera House, used with permission.


    Vienna 1992

    Harry Kupfer and the Komische Oper of Berlin presented at the Vienna Festival in 1992 a dark, heavy, claustrophobic environment for the tragedy with settings using large metal plates, and with characters in contemporary clothes. The beautiful Marilyn Schmiege was Carmen, and Neil Wilson was Don José.


    Mannheim 2003

    Christopher Alden showed a Regie production of Carmen at the Nationaltheater Mannheim in 2003, with Enrico Dovico conducting, sets by Marsha Ginsberg, and contemporary costumes by Doey Lüthi. Andrea Szántó was Carmen, while Thomas Jesatko was Escamillo. Alden staged the environment for Carmen in a run-down company where smoking is prohibited, but where drugs are sold after-hours. Escamillo is a janitor.


    Antwerp 2004

    This was another Regie staging, by director Calixto Bieito, for the Vlaamse Opera Antwerp in 2004. The conductor was Ivan Törzs, with Brandon Jovanovich as Don José and Nora Gubish alternating with Annie Vavrille as Carmen. Set design was by Alfons Flores. Mr. Bieito came up with a concept in which the attention and drama Carmen gets is an illusion that appeals to men more than reality. Characters are alcoholics, junkies, and party girls. An old Mercedes Benz automobile which was placed on the stage was seen by the characters as a symbol of success and happiness. The controversial production was also shown at the Liceu with Roberto Alagna.


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