Photo: Marta Syrko

5 reasons to look forward to... Carmen

20 September 2022

1. Familiar tunes

Everyone’s heard it before: the seductive melody of Carmen’s ‘Habanera’ or the energetic marching music of Escamillo’s ‘Toreador Song’. People might not recognise the music as being from Georges Bizet’s opera, but they know it from TV ads or other references to it in popular culture. While the free-spirited and individualistic heroine, who goes against convention in every way, was not an instant hit with the Parisian opera, this did not stop Carmen from becoming one of the most performed and popular operas of all time. This season, Dutch National Opera will reprise Bizet’s masterpiece in a performance directed by Robert Carsen.

2. Compelling story

The opera Carmen is based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella of the same title. Georges Bizet teamed up with librettists Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac to adapt the story for the stage of the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The opera tells the story of the fateful relationship between Carmen and Don José. When Carmen chooses Don José as her love interest, he initially rejects her. But, because of her overt sensuality, Carmen is irresistible to the young soldier and she manages to beguile and mesmerise him. The problem is that the free-spirited femme fatale refuses to be tied down and Don José can’t let her go. This leads to her tragic death: Don José is obsessed and doesn’t know how to handle the situation. He stabs Carmen to death at the end of the opera.

3. Director: Robert Carsen

Canadian director Robert Carsen is one of the most in-demand directors in the international opera scene. In many of his stagings, he drops the prescribed time and action, focusing instead on the theme and the theatrical setting. His Cavalleria Rusticana, for instance, was staged among dressing room mirrors behind the scenes of a theatre and, in his staging of Carmen, he uses an on-stage bullfighting arena with hundreds of extras as a figurative mirror for the audience. By doing so, he highlights the theme of voyeurism, which is central to the opera.

4. Star soloist: J’Nai Bridges

Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand singers of her generation. The two-time Grammy Award-winning American singer has been described as ‘the Beyoncé of Opera’. The role of Carmen suits her particularly well and formed the basis for her love of opera. When she was in high school, she used to hum the ‘Habanera’ all the time while walking down the halls between classes.

Read more about J'Nai Bridges in this interview

5. Conductor: Jordan de Souza

Young Canadian conductor Jordan de Souza will make his Dutch National Opera debut. His star is steadily rising in the international music scene: from 2017 to 2020, he served as First Kapellmeister of the Komische Oper Berlin. Since then, he has conducted the orchestras of prestigious opera houses, such as the Bayerische Staatsoper and the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Now he will conduct the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in a fresh interpretation of Carmen.

  • Carmen will run from 3 to 22 September 2022 at Dutch National Opera​​​​​​.