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SET - COSTUMES
VIDEO PROJECTION DESIGN
Thomas Bergmann - Silbersalz Film GmbH
Giuseppe di Iorio
Dan O'Neill - Fotis Nikolaou
CHILDREN'S CHORUS MASTER
Rinat Shaham (24, 26/7)
Géraldine Chauvet (27, 29/7)
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)
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)
24, 26, 27, 29 July 2016
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
New production, within the framework of the Athens Festival
Starts at 21.00 |
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
Bizet’s Andalucia is invented, fictional, but it reflects our world. Grinding poverty is daily reality for many millions of people, and the opera Carmen gives voice to those people. This was a radical step in the history of opera, which had traditionally restricted working or poor people to comedy, reserving tragedy for Gods and Nobility. It remains radical today. Carmen respects the humanity of the poor, and gives them passionate, beautiful, sexy, celebratory, and tragic music. There is death, and despair, but there are parties, and dances and fun too: passion and humor are not the preserves of the wealthy. The people in this invented world exist on the margins of society, the desperate edge. They scrape together a living through hard work, or crime, the sex trade, smuggling, whatever comes to hand. They laugh, they cheat, they bribe, they fight, they love; they feel guilt, pride, hope, fear… And somehow, because there is no safety net, all these emotions are heightened, even purified. As is well known, Carmen, the woman, is a Romani, a gypsy, a traveller – dangerously foreign and exotic. The Roma culture is borderless, at least in spirit and intention, even if interaction with National burocracy and fixed-place cultures sometimes causes difficulty and friction. Carmen exemplifies this sense of radical freedom. Men find her absurdly, impossibly attractive. But she is more than an object of desire. She is a real person. Her background seems chaotic, unstable, impoverished. But like everyone else she must eat, she must earn money. Why else would she work in a sweatshop factory doing degrading work? We love Carmen for her verve, for her nerve; for her refusal to compromise with life or love; above all for her insistence on her right to absolute personal freedom and her fearlessness in the face of death.
Borders and poverty, freedom and captivity. There could hardly be more relevant topics. Carmen is a story for now.
Stephen Langridge, 6 June 2015
Carmen at a glance
The composer / French composer Georges Bizet was born in Paris in 1838 and died in Bougival, near the French capital, in 1875. His first music instructor was his own father, a singing teacher. Later, at the Paris Conservatory he was a pupil of Jacques Fromental Halévy, composer of La Juive, whose daughter he went on to marry in 1869. He also studied with Charles Gounod, who deeply influenced the younger composer’s oeuvre. By 1857, when Bizet received the much-coveted Prix de Rome, he had already composed his Symphony in C, though it was not performed until as late as 1935. When he returned from the Villa Medici to Paris, his highest priority was to do something about his pitiable finances. His opera Les pêcheurs de perles (1863) was not the success he had expected. After the Franco-Prussian War (1870) he was appointed chorusmaster of the Theatre National de l' Opéra, but he instead chose to take a position as chef de chant at the Opéra-Comique. His first widely successful composition was the music for the play based on the novel L’Arlésienne by Alphonse Daudet. Bizet was there to experience the turbulent premiere of Carmen in March 1875, but not to see it blossom into a resounding success, for he died a few months later at the age of 36.
The opera / Carmen was written to a libretto by Henri Meilhac (1831-1897) and Ludovic Halévy (1834-1908) after Prosper Merimée’s (1803-1870) novel of the same title (1845). While the term "opera comique" suggests comical elements, it in fact refers to structural and aesthetic characteristics, one of which is prose dialogues. In 1875 Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892) replaced the prose with recitatives for the Vienna performance of the opera. He also added ballet music borrowed from L’Arlésienne Suite and another opera by Bizet, La jolie fille de Perth. Carmen was originally planned in three acts, while later the two scenes of Act III were divided into Acts III and IV. The opera recounts the story of Corporal Don José, who finds himself madly in love with the Gipsy girl Carmen. Tired of his love she finally tells him that she doesn’t love him any longer. In despair, Don José kills her.
Premieres / Carmen was first performed in Paris at the Salle Favart by the ensemble of the Opéra-Comique on 3 March 1875. The title role was performed by Celestine Galli-Marié, but the production that established the opera firmly was held in Vienna in October 1875. In Greece, one of the first recorded performances of the opera was held at the Municipal Theatre of Patras during the 1900/1 season. The Greek National Opera added the opera to its repertory in the 1941/2 season, with Kitsa Damasioti as Carmen. The production was conducted by Antiochos Evangelatos.
Act I / Seville, c.1830. Outside a tobacco factory guarded by soldiers, a young peasant girl, Micaëla, hears that her beloved, Corporal Don José, will be coming soon with the change of guard. The factory bell rings, and the workwomen appear in the street as they return to work. Among them Carmen, a Gypsy woman, sings of the pleasures of free love. She looks at Don José and throws a flower his way, which he keeps. Micaëla arrives to bring Don José a kiss and a letter from his mother, in which she suggests that Micaëla would make a suitable wife. The workwomen are heard quarreling; Carmen has cut a woman with a knife, but refuses to give any explanations for her behavior. The lieutenant of the guard, Zuniga, orders Don José to lead her to jail. Οnce alone, Carmen persuades him to let her go, implying that they might be together if she is set free. Ηe helps her escape.
Αct II / Α group of Gypsy women entertain some officers at Lillas pastia’s tavern. Carmen learns that Don José has been released from prison, where he was serving a monthlong sentence for letting her escape. The famous matador
Escamillo arrives with his entourage. Carmen appears unimpressed, but she gives him some hope. When her friends, who are smugglers, draw up a plan of action, Carmen states she will not be participating, but she promises to meet with them
later. Αs she explains, she has fallen in love with Don José, who is expected to arrive soon. Don José comes and Carmen dances for him. When he says that he must leave because he is on duty, she gets angry and remains impassive even when he shows her the flower of their first encounter, which he has treasured all this time. She tells him that if he loves her, he must run away to the mountain with her. The lieutenant returns, hoping to find Carmen alone. Gripped by envy, Don José attacks him; he now has no other choice but to follow Carmen.
Act III, Scene 1 / In the mountain Carmen and Don José continue to quarrel. The Gypsy women read their cards, but Carmen keeps getting the death card. The smugglers set off, while the women keep the customs officers busy and Don José stands guard. A guide leads Micaëla to the scene, but she hides when she hears her beloved shooting. Escamillo arrives complaining about the stray bullet which nearly hit him. He heard that Carmen had gotten tired of her lover. Don José challenges him to a duel. Carmen interrupts them at the most critical moment and Escamillo invites everyone to his next bullfight. Micaëla appears and informs Don José that his mother is dying. He follows Micaëla after he warns Carmen that they shall meet again.
Scene 2 / Outside the Seville arena salesmen sell their goods while people arrive to attend the bullfight. Escamillo comes with Carmen. A friend tells her to be careful because Don José has been spotted in the crowd, but Carmen is ready to confront him. Don José begs her to come away with him. She tells him that she no longer loves him and prefers to die rather than lose her freedom. As cheers are heard and she rushes to share Escamillo’s triumph with him, Don José stands in her way. When she also returns the ring he had given her as a token of his love he stabs her, just as the bull in the arena succumbs to Escamillo’s coup de grace. As the crowds are leaving the arena after the bullfight, they see Don José holding the dead woman in his arms and confessing his crime.