Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy / In French
Carmen lives and loves freely, defying all social conventions. After a fight with one of her colleagues escalates, she is arrested and finds an unexpected admirer in soldier Don José. He helps her escape and is drawn into a vortex of crime by his passion for her. But when Carmen loses interest in Don José and he is suddenly faced with a new rival in Escamillo, fate takes a tragic turn.
Georges Bizet set out to revolutionise the genre of opéra comique with his “Carmen” – and he succeeded. The world premiere almost caused a scandal, as the work’s uncompromising realism and its socially ostracised main protagonists surprised audiences and alienated critics: The press called it a “highly immoral work”. “Carmen” is both a social portrait and a psychobiography. It fuses the topics of love, passion, freedom and death more thoroughly than almost any other opera and its famous melodies, such as the “Habanera” and the “Toreador Song”, have made “Carmen” one of the biggest global successes in opera history.
In keeping with the opera’s unusual scenes and characters, Jacopo Spirei stages “Carmen” in a circus tent.
“Carmen” saw its world premiere in 1875 in a version with spoken dialogue, but it was only a series of performances in Vienna a few months later that launched the opera’s great success, which lasts to this day. Georges Bizet (1838–1875) did not live to see the triumph of his most important composition; he died at the age of 36, only three months after the world premiere.
Director Jacopo Spirei has for instance staged productions for the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Danish Royal Opera and the San Francisco Opera. At the Salzburg State Theatre, he enthused audiences with “Brokeback Mountain” and “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”. His production of the entire Mozart-Da Ponte Cycle was presented in Salzburg in 2019. The Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg is conducted by Gabriel Venzago, the Salzburg State Theatre’s Principal Conductor.