“Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame. It is no use calling it if it chooses to refuse.”
– Carmen’s Habanera
When Don José encounters Carmen, a wild and free spirit, he forsakes his former life and his fiancée Micaëla. But the emotions of a free woman cannot be tied down! When Carmen is swept away by a toreador, there is only one solution.
Carmen is the world’s most popular opera thanks to its compelling story, memorable tunes and fiery Spanish rhythms. Hit after hit outline the doomed love story, which in this production is set in the restless Spain of the 1930s. The dazzlingly visual production proceeds with a cinematic drive.
“There was something strange and wild about her beauty. Her face astonished you, at first sight, but nobody could forget it. Her eyes, especially, had an expression of mingled sensuality and fierceness which I had never seen in any other human glance. “Gipsy’s eye, wolf’s eye!” is a Spanish saying which denotes close observation. If my readers have no time to go to the ‘Jardin des Plantes’ to study the wolf’s expression, they will do well to watch the ordinary cat when it is lying in wait for a sparrow.”
Prosper Merimée’s description of Carmen
A company of dragoons lounge at a street corner outside their post in Seville. The officer on guard, Morales, tries to flirt with Micaëla, a shy young country girl who has come to ask for the brigadier Don José, but the girl retreats. Followed by a squad of urchins, the relief guard marches in, among them Don José. The cigarett girls saunter out of their factory. Carmen, a gypsy, appears last and is surrounded by her admirers, to whom she sings of the fickleness of love. Piqued by the indifference of Don José, she throws a flower in his face and then retires with her companions to the factory. Micaëla returns to give José a message of affection from his mother. When she modestly withdraws, José vows to marry her as his mother has wished. Suddenly there is an uproar in the cigarett factory and the girl pour out, crying that Carmen has wounded a fellow-worker. Brought before Zuniga, Don Josés captain, the gypsy defiantly resists arrest. She induces José to loosen her bonds by promising him a rendez-vous; as the soldiers lead her to prison she breaks away.
In Lillas Pastia’s tavern. Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès describe the joys of gypsy life. The toreador Escamillo arrives with a party and recounts his adventures in the bullring; he is soon enamored of Carmen. All leave save the gypsy and her friends, who are persuaded by the smugglers to join them on a mountain expedition. Don José hurries in, free at last from the guardhouse where he has been disciplined for letting Carmen escape. She dances for him, but when retreat spunds and José prepares to return to camp she is furious. He clings feebly to his military loyalties but protests his passion, showing her the flower she once threw him, which he has kept. Carmen insists that if he loved her he would follow her to the mountains. José refuses to desert, but when Zuniga enters and orders him back to barracks he disobeys. The two men are about to fight when the gypsies rush in and disarm Zuniga forcing Don José to throw in his lot with them.
The smugglers and gypsies pause in a mountain pass. Despite his shame José still adores Carmen, but she is tiring of him. Frasquita and Merédès read their cards: when Carmen deals the pack she finds only death. As they carry their bales away, the terrified Micaëla approaches in search of Don José. She hides as Escamillo arrives, looking for Carmen. He and the jealous brigadier speedily come to blows, but their duel is stopped by Carmen herself. The toreador leaves after issuing an invitation to the bullfights in Seville, and the others are about to resume their march when Micaëla is discovered. José agrees to go with her when she reveals that his mother is dying, but warns Carmen, they will meet again.
A square in front of the arena in Seville. The procession of bandilleros and picadors passes through, and finally, to the sound of the toreador’s march, Escamillo appears, with Carmen on his arm. Frasquita and Mecédès who have seen José, warn Carmen against him, but she has no fear and is ready to speak to him. The crowd enters the bull-ring, and Carmen is left alone. José, dishevelled, enters and implores her to return to him, but Carmen retorts that she no longer loves him. Enthusiastic applause for Escamillo is heard from the bull-ring. Carmen tries to run into the arena, but José stands in her way. Carmen, furious, throws at his feet the ring which he gave her as a token of their love. In desperation, José draws his knife and stabs her.
Carmen live from the Opera House
Carmen will be streamed live from the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki on Tuesday 14th November. The Helsingin Sanomat newspaper will host the performance on its online TV channel HSTV beginning at 19:00 Finnish time (UTC +3). The performance can also be viewed worldwide in the Stage24 service of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
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