Lyric Opera of Chicago
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  • by Georges Bizet
  • In French with projected English translations
  • Approximate Running Time: 3 hours, 38 minutes

Find out why this is the most popular opera in the world!

What could make a man cheat on his fiancée, drive his mother to tears, and ditch a good job? One woman — Carmen! She's the sex-bomb, gypsy seductress who loves them and leaves them — tossing egos and hearts in the dust.

To the tune of some of the most memorable music ever composed (the Toreador Song, the Habanera, and more!) her story unfolds in the sultry Spanish sun: Corporal Don José arrests Carmen for knifing another cigarette girl — but he's the emotional prisoner! So how can he possibly let her live when she dumps him for a famous matador?

As Carmen, Katharine Goeldner and Nadia Krasteva — two sensational mezzo-sopranos who act, sing, and dance the part of the gypsy seductress like no other artists today.

As Don José, Yonghoon Lee and Brandon Jovanovich — two tenor sensations everyone wants to hear.

Kyle Ketelsen, Nicole Cabell, and Elaine Alvarez complete this red-hot cast!

The Julius Frankel Foundation Production in memory of Ardis Krainik.

Revival generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor and the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation.

Goeldner2

Carmen
Katharine Goeldner
October

Krasteva Carmen ST

Carmen
Nadia Krasteva*
March

Lee Carmen ST

Don José
Yonghoon Lee*
October

Jovanovich Carmen ST

Don José
Brandon Jovanovich
March

Carmen - Elaine Alvarez

Micaëla
Elaine Alvarez
October

Carmen - Nicole Cabell

Micaëla
Nicole Cabell
March

Carmen - Kyle Ketelsen

Escamillo
Kyle Ketelsen

Craig Irvin

Zuniga
Craig Irvin

Jennifer Jakob

Frasquita
Jennifer Jakob

Emily Fons

Mercédès
Emily Fons*

Paul Scholten

Dancaïre
Paul Scholten*

Rene Barbera

Remendado
René Barbera

Paul La Rosa

Moralès
Paul La Rosa 

 


Chicago Children's Chorus 
Josephine Lee — Artistic Director

Carmen - Alain Altinoglu

Conductor
Alain Altinoglu*

Harry Silverstein


Stage Director
Harry Silverstein

 


Set Designer
Robin Don

 


Costume Designer
Robert Perdziola

 


Lighting Designer
Jason Brown

 


Chorus Master
Donald Nally

 


Choreographer & Ballet Mistress
August Tye

 

*Lyric Debut

Carmen article

YONGHOON LEE

The Korean tenor (debut) has portrayed Don José at Netherlands Opera, Glyndebourne (in the house and on tour), the Berlin Staatsoper, and the Hamburg Staatsoper. 

I’m a “full lyric” tenor, and the role is fantastic for me. It does feel as if it’s written for two different voices. In the beginning he’s like a boy, “A letter from my mom” and so on — light and lyrical and beautiful. Then, of course, the role gets bigger and heavier as it goes along.

He’s really not a bad guy, but he has a dark side; he’s in love, but he can’t control his lover. He can be very rough, but he also has sweetness and gentleness. That’s why I love doing the role — because Don José has all the different colors in his personality. He’s a very moody person inside, and after he meets Carmen, he becomes almost like her stalker, especially in Acts Three and Four.

I love Don José’s aria, in which I have to let Carmen know how much I hungered for her in prison. My desire for her love — that’s the most important part of it. I feel good about it vocally, it’s very comfortable. Whether I sing the final B-flat piano depends on what country I’m in! In Milan a coach told me, “The people want to hear your real sound, the full sound.” In America maybe I would sing it piano, as they like it in Germany. It is also a question of how I feel in this music — even if it’s the same role, every day it’s different.

The final act is amazing, so tense and dramatic. From the beginning there’s such passion in it, and finally it’s so touching. I really cry in the performance! On opening night in Amsterdam, after I killed her, I cried. It felt to me like a very real situation — I was totally in the role. It’s tough to cry and sing at the same time, but I could do it!


NADIA KRASTEVA

The Bulgarian mezzo-soprano (debut) has portrayed Carmen for more than ten companies internationally, including the Vienna Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Netherlands Opera, and Moscow's Bolshoi.

Carmen is complicated, and it’s difficult to show the character so that everyone will like and understand her. Some people want to see her very feminine, less aggressive, while others want exactly the opposite — more extreme, a little more vulgar.

The role belongs to a dark mezzo (the music wants that sound!) more than a lyric voice. Yes, there are places written lightly, like the Habanera and the Gypsy Song, and you can show her sense of humor in both the Habanera and the quintet, which is really like something from a light musical. Still, it has to be a darker voice that can immediately connect with more temperament and more passion. Through the music Bizet gave more colors to the character than you can imagine. Carmen is sometimes written very soft, like a cat, and at other times it’s written with such a big contrast in the tessitura, so that it’s more like a tiger.

Carmen’s love of her freedom is very important. She’s somehow connecting this freedom with her ideas of life, love and death. For me there is a parallel connection between those words: for Carmen, freedom, loving, living, and dying, are all somehow on one level. If, when she’s loving, she begins to lose her freedom, then she somehow feels she’s not living anymore.

The audience’s first impression should be of a woman who is flirty and light and joyful, but still with something hidden inside. I would think that Carmen is very much alone in her life, because she somehow can’t associate herself that much with other people. She doesn’t die for Escamillo — it’s impossible to think she would die for anyone. José says, “You will follow me!” but she would rather die than do what somebody is ordering her to do, in trying to take her freedom away from her.


BRANDON JOVANOVICH

The American tenor has previously sung Don José at the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne, Flanders Opera, Washington National Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. 

In the Mérimée novel, Don José is the only kid in his family, and you’d think it would be his role to carry on the family name, have a few kids and make mama happy. But instead, he goes to the seminary! He gets into a fight at a sports event, and he kills a guy. So he has two choices: go to prison or join the army. If you strip away all the layers of Don José, you see that he’s a good guy at heart; he wants to do right, and he’s trying to turn his life around. But right from the beginning he’s troubled, and he gets trapped in this web of Carmen. He can’t hold the reins on the one thing that seems to push him into all these situations that he finds himself — his anger. It boils forth and leads him down these paths.

The Flower Song is a microcosm of who Don José is, showing all aspects of the character in a four-minute aria. He talks about how the flower affected him in prison, how he latched onto it as the one saving grace in his life. What kept him going, giving him hope and resolve as he suffered in prison, was this woman, Carmen. And the more he thought about it, the more he realized he was just a thing in her life. The aria gives you the idea that he’s opening himself up to a woman for the first time. 

Bizet gives us a fantastic arc in this character. He’s someone who’s reacting to everything going on around him, whereas everyone else has a straight path. Carmen, for example, doesn’t change from beginning to end: she’s a bad girl who likes to manipulate people and get her way. The only character you see changing in the opera is Don José.

On the Record

Roger Pines, dramaturg at Lyric Opera, recommends these recorded performances. 

 

CDs

Berganza, Cotrubas, Domingo. Milnes; London Symphony Orchestra, Ambrosian Singers, cond. Abbado (DG)

Price, Freni, Corelli, Merrill; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus, cond. Karajan (RCA)

Verrett, Te Kanawa, Domingo, Van Dam; Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, Solti (Opera d’Oro)

Troyanos, Te Kanawa, Domingo, Van Dam; London Phlharmonic Orchestra, cond. Solti (Decca)

Callas, Guiot, Gedda, Massard; Orchestra and Chorus of Paris Opera, cond. Prêtre (EMI Callas Edition)

Bumbry, Freni, Vickers, Paskalis; Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris, cond. Frühbeck de Burgos (EMI)

Horne,  Maliponte, McCracken, Krause; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Manhattan Opera Chorus, cond. Bernstein (DG)

Resnik, Sutherland, Del Monaco, Krause; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, cond. Schippers (Decca)

Baltsa, Ricciarelli, Carreras, Van Dam; Berlin Philharmonic, Chorus of the Opéra de Paris, cond. Karajan (DG)

 

With so many Carmens available, and with important artists comprising the leading quartet of all the above recordings, the choice remains strictly a matter of personal taste. An entirely satisfying performance is DG’s, in which Teresa Berganza combines the elegance needed for Bizet’s music with the vibrancy of a native Spanish personality. The stars partnering her are all sensitive musicians (as is everyone in the supporting cast), under Claudio Abbado’s invariably responsive baton.

For the ultimate in vocally glamorous Carmens, try RCA’s version with an exceptionally alluring Leontyne Price, joined by Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill, and — in the first of her three recorded Micaëlas — Mirella Freni. The two Americans and two Italians don’t offer the last word in French style (the supporting singers are all French, I hasten to add), but their full-blooded, colorful, emotionally committed performances, not to mention the sumptuous Vienna Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan, are ample compensation.

More thoroughly convincing style comes from the performances under Solti, whether in the studio or live at Covent Garden. Solti’s Decca performance — with the strong Troyanos/Te Kanawa/Domingo/van Dam lineup — offers the opéra-comique version (that is, with spoken dialogue), as does the Abbado recording and also that of Bernstein (commemorating the Met’s famous production from the mid-1970s). In each of those cases the dialogue is delivered by the singers themselves. Unfortunately, on EMI it is done by actors bearing no vocal resemblance to the singers, who include two grand-voiced protagonists, Grace Bumbry and Jon Vickers.

Out of print, alas, is the classic 1950 performance starring Solange Michel and Raoul Jobin, which has previously appeared on three different labels. Try seeking it out: the cast is all either native French or francophone, and the team from Paris’s Opéra-Comique — under a masterful conductor, André Cluytens — offers an effortless stylistic flair unmatched elsewhere.

 


DVDs

Krasteva, Elmgren, Antonenko, Holecek; Chorus and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno, cond. Märzendorfer, dir. Bosio (EuroArts)

von Otter, Milne, Haddock, Tézier; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival Opera Chorus, cond. Jordan, dir. McVicar. (BBC Opus Arte)

Antonacci, Amsellem, Kaufmann, D’Arcangelo; Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, cond. Pappano, dir. Zambello (Decca)

Ewing, McLaughlin, McCauley, Holloway; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Opera Chorus, cond. Haitink, dir. Hall (Kultur)

Bumbry, Freni, Vickers, Diaz; Vienna Philharmonic, cond. and dir. Karajan (DG)

Baltsa, Mitchell, Carreras, Ramey; Metropolitan Opera, cond. Levine, dir. Hall (DG)

 

After you enjoy a particular performer at Lyric, it’s always a wonderful surprise to discover that the artist in question has documented the portrayal on CD or DVD. Go to the latter format for one of Lyric’s two 2010-11 Carmens, Nadia Krasteva. With choral and orchestral forces from the Czech Republic, the beauteous Bulgarian mezzo’s memorably sensual gypsy was recorded in 2005 in Austria at the St. Margarethen opera festival, a spectacular outdoor venue that was once an ancient Roman quarry.

The other available Carmen DVDs all have something distinctive to offer, from the thrilling Don José of Jonas Kaufmann (at Covent Garden) to the sumptuousness of the Met and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras in the DG performances. Very highly recommended is Glyndebourne’s 2002 production by David McVicar, the astonishingly versatile director whose Lyric work includes most recently Manon and Giulio Cesare. Here he is collaborating with Anne Sofie von Otter, who gives an extraordinarily bold  performance, singing with her usual fastidiousness and in splendid French (including an unforgettable Habanera, which she sings while sensuously peeling and eating an orange). Opposite her is Marcus Haddock, playing a deeply touching Don José — like Kaufmann and von Otter, he is a non-native who sings the French language with great care and sensitivity. McVicar’s mesmerizing production is immeasurably aided by the boundlessly enthusiastic Glyndebourne chorus (they’re really showcased here), and by the authentic style of the conductor, Philippe Jordan.

 

BOLD TYPE = Artist appearing in this opera at Lyric in 2010-11

TIME: 1830

PLACE: In and near Seville

ACT ONE
A square

Intermission

ACT TWO
Lillas Pastia’s tavern

Intermission

ACT THREE
The smugglers’ mountain camp

ACT FOUR
Outside the bullring



PRELUDE

ACT ONE
Moralès and other soldiers watch passersby. A country girl, Micaëla, appears, looking for the corporal Don José. After telling her that José will soon arrive with the new guard, Moralès urges Micaëla to step inside the guardhouse to wait. She grows apprehensive and finally runs away.

Street urchins imitate the soldiers as they watch the changing of the guard (Children’s Chorus: Avec la garde montante). Moralès informs José that a girl was asking for him. From the description, José knows it can only be Micaëla. Zuniga, his lieutenant, wonders if a nearby building is the factory where girls work making cigarettes. José confirms this, but has no use for the girls – he cares only for Micaëla.

A bell signals the beginning of the girls’ break time. They enjoy the admiration of the men who have assembled on the square. The girls compare their cigarette smoke with lovers’ sweet murmurings (Chorus: Dans l’air, nous suivons des yeux). Carmen appears, and describes love as a rebellious bird that will not be tamed (Habanera: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle). Seeing José sitting by himself, she tosses a flower at him and returns to the factory with the other girls.

Micaëla reappears, bringing José news from home and a letter (Duet: Parle-moi de ma mère). She leaves him alone to read the letter, promising to return later. As he reads, José declares that he will fulfill his mother’s wish by marrying Micaëla. Screams are heard from the factory. The girls rush out, shouting that Carmen and another girl have gotten into a fight (Chorus: Au secours!). Zuniga sends José and some other soldiers to investigate. They return dragging Carmen, who has wounded the other girl. She refuses to answer Zuniga’s questions, and he decides to send her to prison.

Once Zuniga has gone inside, Carmen tells José she had thrown him a magic flower. He can discard it now, since the charm is working: he loves her. José forbids her to speak, but she tells him about Lillas Pastia’s tavern, where she will go with her next lover (Séguidille: Près des remparts de Séville). José asks, if he does love her, whether she will love him in return. Zuniga emerges from the guardhouse with the written order for Carmen to be taken to prison. José is meant to escort her, but he allows her to push him aside and she escapes.

ACT TWO
Carmen and her friends, Frasquita and Mercédès, entertain Lillas Pastia’s customers (Gypsy Song: Les tringles des sistres tintaient). One of them is Zuniga, who tells Carmen that José – who had been imprisoned for letting her escape – has been released. The toreador Escamillo arrives, regaling the crowd with a description of life in the bullring (Toreador Song: Votre toast). He is instantly attracted to Carmen.

After the tavern has emptied out, two smugglers, Dancaïre and Remendado, suggest that Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercédès join them in a new scheme (Quintet: Nous avons en tête une affaire). While the other girls are eager, Carmen remains uninterested. Love is preoccupying her, and she insists on waiting for José. A few moments later, when his voice is heard outside, she sends everyone else away.

Once José appears, Carmen sings and dances for him until, hearing a distant bugle sounding the retreat, he explains that he must return to barracks. Carmen is furious. José tells how her flower comforted him in prison (Flower Song: La fleur que tu m’avais jêtée). Although he ardently declares his love, Carmen responds that, if he truly loved her, he would carry her away to a carefree life in the mountains (Duet: Là-bas, là-bas dans la montagne).

Zuniga reappears, hoping to see Carmen. The jealous José draws his sword on his superior officer. Carmen calls for her friends, who immediately disarm Zuniga. José is now forced to desert the army and join the smugglers.

ACT THREE
The smugglers’ band arrives at their camp (Sextet: Notre métier). Carmen notices José gazing down the mountain in the direction of his village. She wonders why he doesn’t return to his mother, but he tells her that if she again suggests that he leave, he will kill her.

Frasquita and Mercédès tell their fortunes at cards (Card Scene: Mêlons! Coupons!....En vain pour éviter ). Each predicts a wonderful future for herself, but when Carmen tries her hand, she sees death – first for her, then for José. Dancaïre announces that the group must depart. Carmen and her colleagues are confident that they’ll easily take care of the customs guards (Ensemble: Quant au douanier). They leave José to keep watch.

Micaëla appears, hoping to find José. She prays for courage (Aria: Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante). When she sees José raising his gun to fire, she hides. Escamillo arrives, having narrowly missed being shot. He introduces himself to José (Duet: Je suis Escamillo), who is polite only until he hears that the toreador is in love with Carmen. In deadly earnest, José informs his rival that the price of taking a gypsy girl is a duel with knives. The two fight, but Escamillo’s life is saved by Carmen’s intervention. Before leaving, Escamillo invites the smugglers to his next bullfight.

Dancaïre is attempting to get his companions moving again when Micaëla is discovered. She pleads with José to return home (Finale: Là-bas est la chaumière). He refuses to go until she informs him that his mother is dying. José then leaves with Micaëla, but not before warning Carmen that they will meet again.

ACT FOUR
Vendors exuberantly sell their wares (Chorus: À deux cuartos!). The townspeople welcome the procession. It includes Escamillo, who arrives with Carmen. Having seen José in the crowd, Frasquita and Mercédès urge Carmen to leave. She refuses, and after everyone has entered the bullring, she confronts José (Duet: C’est toi!). He begs her to return to him, but she insists that she will die a free woman. Proclaiming that she loves Escamillo, Carmen attempts to get past José as cries of “Victory!” are heard from the bullring. She pulls from her finger a ring José had given her and hurls it at him. He stabs her, and then tells the soldiers, “You can arrest me – I killed her. My adored Carmen!”

 

Video

Sir Andrew Davis Previews

One look from this seductive gypsy temptress and any man she wants is hers — driving them mad with hot desire and flicking them aside like cold cigarette ash when her fickle ardor cools.

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Backstage at Lyric #94

October 13, 2010

Yonghoon LeeThe young Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee has enjoyed a spectacular rise to international prominence. This season alone includes his debuts at Lyric Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and La Scala.  In a conversation with Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines, he discusses Don José in Carmen, which introduces him to Lyric audiences this season after he triumphed in the role at Glyndebourne, Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam.

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Backstage at Lyric #93

October 13, 2010

KatharineGoeldner100WAmerican mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner has triumphed in many major houses internationally (the Met, Dallas, Madrid, Paris, Toulouse, Salzburg, and many more).  Having debuted at Lyric two seasons ago in Madama Butterfly, she's returning in 2010-11 for two enormously contrasting roles -- the heroine of Carmen and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado.  Here Goeldner discusses both roles in a lively conversation with Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines. 

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Backstage at Lyric #92

October 13, 2010

Elaine AlvarezAmerican soprano Elaine Alvarez has developed an impressive international career (Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Genoa, Athens, and more) since she first appeared at Lyric three seasons ago. She's returning to Lyric this season as Micaëla in Carmen.  Here, speaking with Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines, she discusses that role, while also explaining what brought her to singing and reminiscing about the circumstances of her eleventh-hour Lyric debut as Mimì in La bohème. 

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Backstage at Lyric #91

October 11, 2010

DiscoverySeries91Acclaimed American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, Escamillo in this season's Carmen, joins celebrated French conductor Alain Altinoglu for an illuminating discussion of Bizet's richly melodic and powerfully dramatic masterpiece.

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Carmen Commentary

Carmen
By Georges Bizet

Commentary by Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager

Lyric Opera
Commentaries on CD
2010-2011

2010 Lyric Opera of Chicago
Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of EMI Classics, courtesy of Angel Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by WFMT, Chicago. Mark Travis, Producer.

Carmen Commentary

Carmen
By Georges Bizet

Commentary by Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager

Lyric Opera
Commentaries on CD
2010-2011

2010 Lyric Opera of Chicago
Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of EMI Classics, courtesy of Angel Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by WFMT, Chicago. Mark Travis, Producer.

Carmen Commentary

Carmen
By Georges Bizet

Commentary by Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager

Lyric Opera
Commentaries on CD
2010-2011

2010 Lyric Opera of Chicago
Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of EMI Classics, courtesy of Angel Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by WFMT, Chicago. Mark Travis, Producer.

Carmen Commentary

Carmen
By Georges Bizet

Commentary by Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager

Lyric Opera
Commentaries on CD
2010-2011

2010 Lyric Opera of Chicago
Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of EMI Classics, courtesy of Angel Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by WFMT, Chicago. Mark Travis, Producer.

Carmen Commentary

Carmen
By Georges Bizet

Commentary by Jesse Gram, Audience Education Manager

Lyric Opera
Commentaries on CD
2010-2011

2010 Lyric Opera of Chicago
Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of EMI Classics, courtesy of Angel Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by WFMT, Chicago. Mark Travis, Producer.