Preloader Operavision
Masahiko Terashi

New National Theatre Tokyo

Carmen

Love is a rebellious bird

Operas | Bizet

When a free-spirited woman is arrested, an impressionable soldier is charmed into letting her go. But having risked everything to be with her and lost, his hopes of happiness soon turn into a jealous rage.

 

With equal parts danger and desire, Carmen is an intoxicating cocktail that never fails to excite the senses. French mezzo-soprano Stéphanie d'Oustrac plays the seductive heroine with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude who bears more than a passing resemblance to Amy Winehouse. Spanish director Àlex Ollé’s production is conducted by Kazushi Ono at the New National Theatre Tokyo.

New production of New National Theatre Tokyo, recorded on 8 July 2021.

 

Sung in French. Subtitles are available in English, Japanese and French with the option of auto-translation into over 100 other languages.

Available from
18.10.2021 at 10h00 CET

Available until
18.01.2022 at 12h00 CET

CarmenStéphanie d'Oustrac
Don JoséToshiaki Murakami
EscamilloAlexandre Duhamel
MicaëlaRyoko Sunakawa
ZunigaHidekazu Tsumaya
MoralèsKenichi Yoshikawa
Le DancaïreHidekazu Machi
Le RemendadoShuhei Itoga
FrasquitaMari Moriya
MercédèsMika Kaneko
ChorusNew National Theatre Chorus, BIWAKO HALL Vocal Ensemble, TOKYO FM Boys Choir (Children Chorus)
OrchestraTokyo Philharmonic Orchestra


MusicGeorges Bizet
TextHenri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy
ConductorKazushi Ono
DirectorÀlex Ollé
Set DesignerAlfons Flores
Costume DesignerLluc Castells
Lighting DesignerMarco Filibeck
Chorus MasterKyohei Tomihira
Children Chorus MasterKeiko Yoneya, Kunie Ito

Act I

The story takes place in Seville, Spain. A group of soldiers are on duty at a cigarette factory. Micaëla, a ‘country lass with pigtails in a blue skirt’, comes to visit Corporal Don José. Moralès, another corporal, tells her that José will soon be arriving at the changing of the guard. Micaëla declines Moralès’ suggestion to wait with them and leaves. Shortly, town children enter followed by Lieutenant Zuniga and his soldiers. Moralès tells José that Micaëla has been looking for him. José explains that Micaëla is a girl living with his mother in his hometown. The midday bell sounds and the female workers of the factory emerge. The men have been waiting for this moment. Their main attention is on Carmen. Noticing that José is not attracted to her, Carmen takes the cassia flower from her bosom and throws it at him before exiting the scene. Micaëla reappears and gives José a letter and some money from his mother. In the letter his mother expresses her wish for him to return home soon and marry Micaëla. In the meantime, a fight breaks out in the factory and Carmen, having injured a fellow worker, is arrested. José is ordered to lead Carmen away, but he gives in to her seduction, frees her from the binding ropes and helps her escape.

Act II

At Lillas Pastia’s tavern. Zuniga tells Carmen that José, who has been serving his term in prison for letting Carmen escape, is being discharged today. A popular toreador called Escamillo enters. Escamillo and Carmen are attracted to each other, but at this point, Carmen is still in love with José. Two smugglers, Le Dancaïre and Le Remendado, arrive. They coax Carmen and her friends to join them in their business. Eventually, José arrives from prison. Carmen welcomes him, but is annoyed when José tries to leave with the bugle call. About to leave, José encounters a drunken Zuniga and a brawl breaks out. Having defied his superior, José has no other choice than to join the smugglers.

Act III

Scene 1

In the mountains, on the way to smuggling goods. Carmen’s love for José has turned totally cold. Carmen joins Frasquita and Mercédès in reading their fortunes from cards, but her death is predicted. Escamillo arrives and, acknowledging José as a love rival, starts a duel, which Le Dancaïre and the others intercept. Micaëla arrives in search of José and announces that his mother is dying. José descends the mountains with Micaëla.

Scene 2

At the bullring in Seville. Bullfighting is about to take place in front of a great crowd and the toreadors’ entrance is greeted by loud cheering. The last in the procession is Escamillo accompanied by Carmen. Carmen’s friends warn her to watch out since José is in town. Outside the arena where the cheering is still heard, José pleads with Carmen to reconcile with him. However, Carmen refuses coldly. Madly jealous, José stabs a knife into Carmen’s breast.

Carmen, a symbol of courage and freedom

Stage director Àlex Ollé on his heroine

The Spanish Carmen is a myth. It is a myth that is still at the topmost of collective imagery - national and international - since Mérimée published his novel and Bizet premiered his opera. This myth has survived theatre, film, dance, music, painting and all art forms. It has survived even the attempts of demystifying the qualities that Carmen seems to embody. 

We could ask ourselves why we are fascinated by Carmen even 175 years after the character was created. Nowadays, the tragedy of Carmen would be on the news as just another case of gender-based violence. What lives on is the drive that motivates her, her desire for freedom, her open relationships with men, equality, her will to choose on her own, to determine her own fate. Carmen is self-possessed. There is no man who can break her will. Her vital impulse is the same one that motivates contemporary women who demand the same thing Carmen died for. Carmen is power, joy, courage, defiance, a symbol of freedom. Seen from this point of view, Carmen is a timeless story which represents some of the rights women have been able to achieve in the span of two centuries.

In Mérimée’s work, Carmen lives in a world of cigar makers, Gypsies, bullfighters, bandits, the Andalucian Bohemian, the circles of flamenco art. In Bizet’s opera, Carmen is portrayed as a tobacco factory worker, who outside of her work, which is her real world, behaves as any flamenco singer does. Whenever she is with Frasquita and Mercedes, among smugglers, in Lilas Pastia’s tavern, even with lieutenant Zuniga, Carmen behaves like an artist. Zuniga himself tells her ‘It is not songs I expect from you’.

That world of song and tavern takes us to the world of entertainment, concerts. Carmen could be a well-known singer who performs in large scale concerts in front of huge audiences but at the same time, in small scale venues for a select audience. The world of entertainment involves travelling, diverse people, proximity to the world of drugs, alcohol, parties, promiscuity. All of these seem to be an appropriate universe for Carmen. This parallelism allows us to approach the staging of Carmen as a current story that today’s audience can follow.

Carmen is a present-day woman. She has life experience and feels comfortable in diverse environments. Even though she is a modern woman, all her experience cannot spare her from falling in love with the wrong man. Don José is a possessive, jealous man who cannot accept ‘no’ as an answer. 

During the process of searching for ideas, there was a character that has been useful to recreate this story. Singer Amy Winehouse is for us the mirror image of Carmen. Amy’s life is the rise and fall of a determined, temperamental young woman who ends up dragged by the pressure inflicted by her immediate surroundings and, just like Carmen, has a tragic ending. For us, Amy is above all an esthetic and visual reference which allows us to identify Carmen with a real-life, widely known, close and easy to understand character so that the audience can feel empathy towards her.

From the conjunction of these ideas, surfaces the scenic concept of a set constructed by tubular structures typical of any rock stage. In our version of Carmen, the main character is a singer of a trendy band. The characters who hover around her belong to the Bohemian of the world of art. Don José is a policeman with whom Carmen plays at the beginning, but ends up having a stormy love story with. Carmen’s environment is made up of musicians, technical crew members, security guards, promoters and fans who follow her. The smugglers are the dealers who tend to run drugs in this environment. Her relationship with bullfighter Escamillo arises maybe because they are both famous, but what binds them above all is the fact that they are reflections of each other. They both like risk, and confront danger face to face. Thus, in the final scene, Carmen confronts Don José just like the bullfighter confronts the bull, however this time, the bullfighter cannot avoid the goring.

It is in this environment of music, fame, money, drugs, alcohol, love, passion, jealousy and freedom that tragedy is forged again in a manner that today’s audience will understand perfectly.