Georges Bizet


Conductor Lukas Karytinos
Director Stephen Langridge

24, 26, 27, 29 July 2016

Odeon of Herodes Atticus
New production, within the framework of the Athens Festival
Starts at 21.00

Set - costumes George Souglides
Video projection design Thomas Bergmann - Silbersalz Film GmbH 
Lighting Giuseppe di Iorio
Movement Dan O'Neill - Fotis Nikolaou
Chorus master Agathangelos Georgakatos
Children's chorus Master Mata Katsouli

Rinat Shaham (24, 26/7) 
 Géraldine Chauvet (27, 29/7) 
Don José   
Leonardo Capalbo (24, 26/7)
 Dimitris Paksoglou (27, 29/7) 
Dionyssis Sourbis (24, 26/7)
 Omar Kamata (27, 29/7)
Saioa Hernández (24, 26/7) 
 Anna Stylianaki (27, 29/7)
Petros Magoulas
Nikos Kotenidis 
Maria Mitsopoulou (24, 26/7)
 Maria Kokka (27, 29/7) 
Eleni Davou (24, 26/7)
 Diamanti Kritsotaki (27, 29/7) 
Kostis Rasidakis (24, 26/7) 
 Yannis Selitsaniotis (27, 29/7) 
Alexandros Tsilogiannis (24, 26/7)  
 Christos Kechris (27, 29/7)  
Women          Cleopatra Anerousou, Athina Vrouva, Eleni Kladou, Eleftheria Stamou
MenFotis Diamantopoulos, Blendi Latifi, Petros Kouroupakis, Esmeraldo Bitro, Ilir Sipri 


The Greek National Opera’s second major summer production is George Bizet’s groundbreaking Carmen, which will be staged at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre on 24, 26, 27 and 29 July 2016 as part of the Athens Festival. With themes of love and liberty, the most popular opera in the French repertoire is conducted by Lukas Karytinos and directed by the famous British director, Stephen Langridge, currently Artistic Director of the Gothenburg Opera.

One of the most emblematic operas, Carmen still challenges its audience as much as when it was first staged, 140 years ago. The eponymous heroine defends her freedom and her right to choose her lovers instead of her being chosen by them. She is a menace for patriarchic societies, dominated by men. Her choices threaten the foundation of these societies. The only solution is to exterminate her. A task that is undertaken by the love-stricken and “betrayed” Don José

Considering Carmen’s current popularity, it’s hard to imagine how provocative the subject matter was when it first premiered in 1875, or how offensive George Bizet’s music was considered to be. The press of the time unanimously declared the opera’s plot to be immoral, and its music too cerebral. It was inconceivable that marginalized women should appear on stage, not only singing and dancing in provocative ways, but also smoking. What’s more, the heroine is shown dragging a ‘decent’, engaged man, corporal Don José, down to his social ruin. But the fiery reaction of the public and press at the time wasn’t just because of the subject matter and music in the opera. It was the combination of seemingly incongruous musical genres that really challenged the artistic establishment. This is precisely why this specific opera is so historically important. Carmen bridges two distinct worlds. One is portrayed through conventional emotional and comic scenes with virtuous heroes, like the simple village girl Micaëla or Don José. But the opera’s main plot offers another, more complex picture, offering stark realism, an amoral world view which challenged the mores of the time, and characters from the margins of society such as the gypsy heroine and her lawless gang. Above all, it was this music, with its intense elements of realism and the direct references to traditional popular Spanish music in a rarefied work of art, which shocked the public.

Carmen’s success was particularly important for one additional reason: it came in the final quarter of the 19th century, at a time of intense debate about the intersection of high and popular art. The question posed was whether the two genres were successfully combined in Carmen or whether they were incompatible. Many considered the realism of the subject matter to be exceptionally progressive, and thought it was a daring move to include folk dances in a ‘serious’ musical genre such as opera. The exotic color contributed by the Spanish folk-like melodies weren’t an issue, since that element fitted neatly into the Orientalist tastes and the trend for "anything Spanish" in Paris of that time. What did provoke reaction was that in Carmen the ‘exotic’ was not some charming, decorative sideshow but was right at the heart of the action. It primarily takes the form of songs and dances, and reveals the anxieties of that age about the body’s relationship to the spirit. Today Carmen can quite easily be viewed against this historical context, and be assessed for the innovativeness of its operatic conception.

Musical direction for Carmen comes from the renowned GNO conductor, Lukas Karytinos. In the Greek National Opera’s new and exciting production of this revolutionary opera, the famous British director Stephen Langridge has remained faithful to the ideology and high standards of Carmen, setting the story in modern-day Europe. Well-known for his unconventional performances in British high security prisons among other things, Langridge exploits the realism of George Bizet’s legendary opera to explore the limits that are being imposed on us, in every imaginable area of our lives, now more than ever. Limits on freedom, on desire, on self-determination, on survival, on escape, or in his words: Limitations, poverty, freedom and slavery. It’s harder to find more topical subjects. Carmen is a story for the modern day. Langridge’s productions have been staged at the world’s leading opera houses in London, Lisbon, Salzburg, Tokyo, Paris, Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, Oslo, and of course the Gothenburg Opera, where he happens to be Artistic Director. In parallel with his career in opera, Langridge has also worked considerably on the relationship between opera and education and society, bringing his works into schools, hospitals and prisons, in countries such as Holland, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, Ireland and the UK. He has also partnered with groups of amateurs, the disabled, and the socially marginalized. Some of his best-known works with non-professional actors and singers were the musicals West Side Story and Julius Caesar, presented to inmates at the Bullington and Wandsworth High Security Prisons in the UK, and Mountjoy Prison in Ireland, and For the Public Good by Orlando Gough, staged with 500 amateur singers to mark the 100th anniversary of the English National Opera’s Coliseum Theatre. This is Langridge’s third collaboration with the GNO after The Possessed by Vrontos (2001) and Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice (2007).

Sets and costumes have been designed by the renowned set designer Giorgios Souglides, born in Cyprus, who lives and works in France. This inspired artist has previously provided GNO with the wonderful sets and costumes for the staging of the Cavalleria Rusticana – Pagliacci at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre in 2011, and the more recent production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti at Olympia Theatre in the autumn of 2014. Videos were designed by Thomas Bergmann (Silbersalz Film GmbH), lighting by Giuseppe di Iorio and movement direction by Dan O’Neill and Fotis Nikolaou

Two of the most successful Carmens of our times, Rinat Shaham and Géraldine Chauvet, star in what is an exceptionally demanding leading role, both in terms of voice and stage presence. Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham first performed Carmen in 2004 at Britain’s famous Glyndebourne Opera Festival, garnering glowing reviews from music critics. Since then, she has performed this role around the globe in Rome, Catania, Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Vienna, Lisbon, Minnesota, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Miami, New York, New Zealand, New Orleans, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo and Sydney, and on a tour of Japan, to mention a few. She has collaborated with leading conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Thodoros Currentzis and others, and has also starred in productions at the Royal Opera House London, Salzburg, the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Brussels, Stuttgart, etc. She is considered the archetypal Carmen of our time worldwide. One indication of her impact is that the theatrical work Carmen Disruption was written by Simon Stephens about her life and career, and staged with great success in Cologne and London. The Guardian had the following to say about Shaham: ‘Added to this is the figure of the Singer, played by Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham as a fascinating, postmodern version of herself who reflects on the experience of playing Carmen repeatedly across a globalised world.’ 

The second cast stars the French mezzo-soprano Géraldine Chauvet, who caused quite a stir with her passionate, powerful performance of Carmen at the Arena di Verona in 2009 directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Placido Domingo conducting. The following year, this time with the renowned tenor as Don José, they presented Carmen with immense success at the Tokyo Opera. Her Metropolitan Opera debut, where she performed the demanding role of Sesto in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, received glowing praise from the New York Times. She has also starred as Carmen at the Washington National Opera. 

The production’s outstanding cast includes acclaimed Greek and foreign soloists. The role of Don José in the first cast will be sung by the Italian-American tenor Leonardo Capalbo, student of the legendary Marilyn Horne, has previously sung La Bohème at the GNO (produced by Graham Vick) and comes from the Royal Opera House, London, where he performed alongside our own Dimitris Platanias in Nabucco. In the second cast it is GNO’s tenor Dimitrios Paksoglou who performs the role. The role of Escamillo is performed by two outstanding, new generation baritones in turn, the Greek rising star Dionyssis Sourbis and the Italian Omar Kamata. The role of Micaëla is performed by the Spanish soprano Saioa Hernández and the young Greek Anna Stylianaki, who we enjoyed recently in the role of Mimi in La Bohѐme at the Olympia Theatre. Alongside them are young and well-established GNO soloists Petros Magoulas, Nikos Kotenidis, Maria Mitsopoulou, Maria Kokka, Eleni Davou, Diamanti Kritsotaki, Kostis Rasidakis, Yannis Selitsaniotis, Alexandros Tsilogiannis and Christos Kechris.

With the Orchestra, Chorus, Ballet Members and Children’s Chorus of the GNO within the framework of its educational programme.    

Ticket prices: Upper Tier  €25, C Zone  €45, B Zone  €55, A Zone €60. VIP Zones B & D €85.
VIP Zone C  €100/ Children & students  €15 / Presale starts on 24 July 2016

With the support:    




  • Carmen Odeon of Herodes Atticus 2016

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