Co-production – National Theater in Niš, the Faculty of Arts in Niš and the Niš Symphony Orchestra
Patron – City of Nis
OPERA IN 4 ACTS
Based on the novel Carmen by Prosper Mérimée
First performance March 3, 1875.
About the composer
Georges Bizet (Georges-Alexandre-César-Leopold Bizet, 1838–1875) was a French composer and pianist. His father was a singing teacher, his mother a pianist, and his uncle was a singer. As a nine-year-old, he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano, organ and composition.
Predominantly an opera composer, Bizet wrote, in addition to twelve operas, three operettas, two symphonies, several overtures, suites, cantatas, piano works and over thirty solo songs. His music is full of spirit, clear and understandable, unencumbered by predetermined systems and ideas. It exudes health and strength, knows how to revive passion and movement and to paint with strong, vivid colors.
Major works: Symphony in high C, Arles suite, operas The Pearl Hunters, Don Procopio, The Girl from Perth, Mireille, Camille and Carmen.
Bizet’s most famous work is certainly the opera Carmen created in 1875, based on the play of the same name by Prosper Mérimée. The premiere of this opera was a complete failure. Unaccustomed to this kind of content and unusual orchestration, the audience was initially bored, and later even whistled and loudly protested. This disaster was completed by bad reviews, which appeared in the press the next day. However, the opera was praised by real connoisseurs of music – Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky and Brahms, who watched the opera twenty times and claimed that it was the best opera ever written.
Carmen later really achieved unprecedented success and became the most famous opera ever, but Bizet did not live to see it. The effort he invested in the creation and preparation of the opera, as well as the great disappointment due to its failure at the premiere, were too great a blow for him. He died on June 3, 1875, at the age of 36, of a heart attack, just a few months after the tragic premiere.
It takes place in Seville and its surroundings.
Soldiers stand guard in front of the tobacco factory. A young girl, Micaela, asks to see her fiancé (Don José), to give him greetings from his mother. At that time, Don Jose arrives and informs the lieutenant about the state of the factory and the girls who work there. In the afternoon, during the break, they go outside, where many suitors await them. Among the girls is a gypsy named Carmen, who begins to sing a provocative habanera. The lyrics of the song are: “I don’t know when I will love.” Maybe today, maybe tomorrow.” She quickly throws a flower to Don José with the intention of being noticed, she attracts attention and everyone wants to get close to her. Mikaela manages to sneak a letter and money to her fiancé, as well as kiss him, in the name of greeting from his mother. Unfortunately, because of Carmen, there is a commotion in the factory and she injures one of the workers in the fight. The girls start to argue about who is to blame, and guards soon arrive at the scene of the accident. Zuniga regretfully arrests Carmen, and Jose takes her to prison. As they head to the prison, Carmen promises José that she will meet him outside the city, provided he lets her go. Fascinated by her beauty, Jose does so, but Zuniga sees him freeing her and arrests him as an accomplice, stripping him of his rank.
The next scene takes place in a tavern visited by gypsy smugglers. Everyone enjoys the charms of Carmen and her friends Fraskita and Mercedes, while they dance and sing for the guests. Zuniga (who is also in that tavern) tries to woo her by telling her that the sergeant who let her go was punished and is in prison because of her. Escamillo, the toreador, stops at the tavern and invites everyone to come to the arena. Carmen refuses to join them.
Two months later, José is released from prison and sings of his longing for Carmen, which she reciprocates by ordering a feast and dancing for him. When it gets dark and it’s time for José to go back to the barracks, Carmen laughs and mocks his sense of responsibility.
José shows Carmen his love by throwing a flower at her feet, the same one she gave him two months earlier. José is in a dilemma and hesitates between the army and Carmen, while Zuniga forces him to obey. José is challenged and takes out his saber, but the smugglers, who happened to be there, prevent the confrontation. José has no choice anymore and joins smugglers and gypsies, without thinking about the consequences.
Break for 15 minutes
The scene begins with an image of smugglers (Carmen among them) making their way through the mountain. Carmen is fed up with José and wants to get rid of him. Therefore, she and her friends throw cards to find out the fate. The cards show imminent death for Carmen. Nearby, Micaela searches the mountain for José, hoping to distract him from Carmen. Escamillo (the bullfighter) is also nearby, looking for Carmen, but he runs into José, who jealously thinks that Carmen has been avoiding him lately because of the bullfighter. José challenges the bullfighter to a duel, but the smugglers interrupt this duel as well. Micaela invites José to come with her to the village, because his mother is dying.
The final act begins in Seville’s bullring. Spectators gather. Carmen and Escamillo soon appear, singing a love song together. Carmen’s friends (Mercedes and Fraskita) inform her that Don José is in the audience, who is surely planning revenge. The defiant gypsy does not listen to the warnings and goes to meet him. José stands before Carmen and humbly begs her for love. He believes that there is still hope for them and that they can still find happiness, which Carmen refuses, even though she is aware of the danger and José’s jealousy. She throws away José’s ring with disdain, the same way she threw the flower at him some time ago. Desperate, José pulls out a knife and kills Carmen, ending the opera.
Carmen, Gypsy - Aleksandra Ristić
Don José, sergeant - Saša Arsenkov
Escamillo, bullfighter - Marko Milisavljević/Nikola Mikić
Mikaela, girl from the village - Katarina Simonović Ivanković/Miona Vukadinović
Morales, sergeant of the guard - Lazar Lazarević/Emil Verzio
Fraskita, Carmen's friend - Jelena Jovanović/Ema Ćoćić
Mercedes, Carmen’s friend - Nena Đurić/Milica Rakić
Zuniga, captain - Emil Verzio/Marko Milisavljević
Dankairo, smuggler - Lazar Lazarević
Remendado, smuggler - Nikola Stamenković/Damjan Mišić
People, soldiers, smugglers - Maestrini - Choir of the Faculty of Arts in Niš