In a bold move, the Royal Opera House will showcase a rare production of “La Tragedie de Carmen” between Nov. 3 and Nov 14 at Wilton’s Music Hall.
The opera, which uses passages from Bizet’s famous score is actually a reworking of the story to showcase a different angle that some purport is closer in line with the original novella by Prosper Merimée.
So what exactly is “La Tragedie de Carmen?”
From the brainchild of British theater director Peter Brook, the opera strips down the work to just four characters and re-inserts dialogue from the novella. The piece itself is in one-act and runs nearly half the length of the original Bizet opera.
Additionally, the production reintroduces the character of Carmen’s husband Garcia and emphasizes José’s murderous tendency by having him kill Garcia and Zuniga. In the opera, we see his degeneration, but always question whether he might actually go so far as to kill the object of his obsession. As showcased here, we know what the future holds well before we get there. Even Escamillo gets killed in the bullring.
The work itself has had a mixed reception in its initial runs, as one might expect of a controversial move such as this one. While European critics were excited by the revisionistic approach, a NY Times critics from 1983 was less enthusiastic. “What I saw was the work of an expert showman whose most inspired ideas were tricks and special effects,” stated the review. “The audience was forced to concentrate on an intricate piece of stage business that added up to little more than a director’s stunt.”
At the ROH, the performances will be led by a cast that includes mezzo Aigul Akhmetshina, tenor Thomas Atkins, baritone Gyula Nagy, and soprano Francesca Chiejina. Conductor James Hendry will lead the ensemble.
The show will run for eight total performances with Gerard Jones directing the production.