The award-winning staging of Calixto Bieito
with the interpretation of master Yutaka Sado
Teatro Regio, Tuesday 13th November 2012 at 20.00
Carmen, the famous opéra-comique by Georges Bizet, will be staged at the Teatro Regio from the 13th to 25th November. Calixto Bieito directs a daring and innovative production which left the audience both touched and talking about for a while. The Orchestra and the Chorus of the Teatro Regio will be in the hands of the Master Yutaka Sado, a charismatic and acclaimed director who confirms his strong ties with our Theatre.
The opera was co-produced with the Gran Teatre de Liceu in Barcelona, the Teatro Massimo of Palermo and the Teatro La Fenice in Venezia – and it was awarded the «Franco Abbiati» the XXXI Prize of Italian music critics for the best direction seen in Italy in 2011: «set in a sleazy land border between Spain and Africa, this masterpiece by Bizet sees, in the hands of Bieito its theatrical roughness, revealed by vital snapshots, and sometimes shocking, that follow one another in harmony with the crucial moments of the score composing an amazing story». Bieito aims to clean up the opera of any old cliché and sees in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, the ideal setting for this Carmen, where the very essence of Carmen, made of sex, violence and death, finds its own reflection mirrored in the physical space, cruelty, desperation and terribly brutal city itself. Brutal like only some love stories allow themselves to be. Bieito adds: «Carmen is an opera about easily touched emotions, about abyssal love, about the physical and emotional destruction and self-destruction». The direction of this edition of the opera will be by Joan Anton Rechi. The sets, which are vital, are by Alfons Flores, the costumes by Mercè Paloma and the lightings are by Alberto R. Vega.
«I’ve been just commissioned to write three acts for the Opéra-Comique and Meilhac and Halévy will write the booklet. It will be a joyful one yet stylish». The three acts which Bizet had written to his colleague Guiraud in June 1872, would soon take the title of Carmen, like Mérimée’s novella that inspired the writing of the booklet. The story of passion and death between a gypsy woman and a soldier, in the literary version, is presented through the voice of shivering cold that dampens the brighter tones of the story with ironic comments with geographical and anthropological observations. The two librettists have been through the whole novella, leaving only the love story yet turning its ironic tone into a lighter and jollier one. Apart from the frivolity that characterizes many episodes, there is a disturbing fate: Carmen is in fact an opera that begins as an operetta and ends in tragedy. For this reason, and for the stark realism of certain scenes, the theatre management would have wanted to censor the work: the Opéra Comique was a theatre for families, and a final blows by a navaja was not the ideal background for matchmaking and exchange invitations to dinner. After lengthy negotiations, the rehearsals started, but new problems arose: the orchestra and the choir found the opera far too difficult and choristers became angry because Bizet expected them to act as well as to sing. On 3rd March 1875, the premiere night, Carmen was engulfed in an atmosphere of nervousness, especially after the theatre director had advised members of the public against bringing their wives and daughters to the theatre.
Despite the cold initial reception, the opera went beyond the French borders arriving, towards the end of 1875, in Vienna, where the spoken dialogues, which are characteristic of the genre of opera-comique, were replaced by Italian recitals with music by Guiraud, as Bizet had suddenly died a few months before. In this version Carmen circulated for theatres around the world, arousing the enthusiasm of people of different background such as Bismarck, Nietzsche and Tchaikovsky. Since then, the admiration of the public for Carmen have never wavered. How to explain? According to the master Sado «This opera is like a musical in the sense that the melodies are catchy, the singers move about on stage and people are so easily swept away by history. The role of Carmen as a femme fatale is one of the attractions, but the power of music, that touches people’s hearts, is another important attraction of this opera. In a sense, I think this is an extremely unique opera which shows a transition between the grand-opera and a musical».
Carmen is set in a time close to that of its audience: the action takes place in Seville around 1820. In the Andalusian city there is a tobacco factory, which employs several gypsies, including the fascinating Carmen, who is the one who comes to blows with a colleague and was sent to prison in the custody of Brigadier Don José. The young man, who was initially indifferent to the charms of the gypsy girl because his girlfriend (Micaëla) was an honest girl from his village, feels magnetically attracted to the gypsy and let her escape. Some time later, in a tavern, the meeting point for smugglers, Carmen awaits the arrival of Don José, who was imprisoned for having heldped her. The two, after having exchanged mutual love promises start soon arguing furiously because he wants to return to the barracks overlooking the companion and the argument ends in brawl and so Don José, to escape justice, was forced to join the bandits. The life as a subterfuge does not fit the ex-sergeant, his relationship with Carmen goes from bad to worse and even the gypsy has a premonition of the end, where she, by querying the cards, sees her own death. Micaëla in a desperate attempt to redeem the man she loves, reaches Don José asking him to visit his dying mother and the young man follows her. The drama ends in front of the arena in Seville: while the people are cheering Escamillo, the bullfighter, and Carmen’s new lover, Don José awaits hidden. The young man, consumed by jealousy, approaches Carmen as soon as the crowds have dispersed: while the audience cheers in the arena, the two lovers face each other; José loves Carmen and so he threatens her and begs her, but the gypsy does not love him anymore and would only like to go to celebrate her new lover. In the frantic final scene Don José, furious and desperate, kills Carmen.
In the three main roles there will be some very talented young performers. Carmen is Anita Rachvelishvili, the Georgian mezzo-soprano who triumphed at La Scala in the same role and that, for the voice, appearance and temperament, has been defined by Barenboim as “perfect for the character.” Don José is the Russian Maxim Aksenov whose tenor’s voice is rich in nuances and intensity. In the role of the young and innocent Micaëla is Alessandra Marianelli, who has been applauded on several prestigious stages worldwide. The African-American bass-baritone Mark S. Doss, after being the Dutchman by Wagner, returns in the role of the bullfighter Escamillo. Rounding the cast: Arianna Vendittelli (Frasquita), Annalisa Stroppa (Mercédès), Omar Montanari (Il Dancaïre), Antonio Feltracco (il remendado), Federico Longhi (Moralès) and Francesco Musinu (Zuniga).
The Chorus Master of the Regio and Chorus of White Voices of the Teatro Regio and the Conservatory “G. Verdi” is Claudio Fenoglio. During the eleven performances, from 13th to 25th November, will alternate in the title roles: Giuseppina Piunti (Carmen), Carlo Ventre (Don José), Erika Grimaldi (Micaëla) and Károly Szemerédy (Escamillo).
Carmen will be presented to the public by Alberto Mattioli at Incontro con l’Opera to take place at the Piccolo Regio Puccini on Wednesday 7th November at 17.30.
The premiere night, Tuesday 13th November at 20.00, will be broadcast live on RAI-Radio3.
Teatro Regio Box Office: piazza Castello 215 – Phone: +39.011.8815.241/242 – e-mail: email@example.com. Info – Tel 011.8815.557 and teatroregio.torino.it.