Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy
Conductor: František Drs, Jiří Mikula
Stage director: Zdeněk Troška
Sets: Milan Ferenčík
Costumes: Josef Jelínek
Chorus master: Tvrtko Karlovič, Adolf Melichar
Choreography: Marcela Benoniová
State Opera Orchestra
State Opera Chorus
Czech National Opera Ballet
Premiere: March 11, 2004
The premiere of Carmen at the Opéra Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875 met with a lukewarm response. Although on that very day George Bizet was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, this accolade could not compensate for his disappointment at the audience’s reserved reception of the opera. The real triumph only came when the work was staged at the Hofoper in Vienna on 23 October 1875, which, however, Bizet did not live to see. Since that day, Carmen has conquered opera stages worldwide and become one of the most frequently performed operas. Bizet found the theme himself, in Prosper Merimée’s novella about the beautiful and frivolous Carmen who is ultimately killed by her jilted lover Don José. Bizet was immediately intrigued by the story: he liked exotic themes and even though he had never been to Spain he was entranced by the dramatic atmosphere. The libretto was entrusted to Henri Meilhac (spoken dialogue) and Ludovic Halévy (arias, etc.), yet Bizet most likely played a significant role too (he wrote, for example, the text to the Habanera).
The form of the opera’s definitive version is not entirely clear. We only know that on 2 June 1875, a day before his death, Bizet concluded an agreement with the Vienna Opera pursuant to which the spoken dialogue should be replaced with recitatives. This task was undertaken by Bizet’s friend Ernest Guiraud, who added ballet music to Act 4, taken over from other Bizet compositions. After the premiere in Vienna, the opera was performed in this version around the world. In 1964, Fritz Oeser published a reconstructed original version, thus affording another possible performance practice. The State Opera presents the work’s original version with shortened dialogues.
The opera is staged in French original version and Czech and English surtitles are used in the performance.
Photo: František Ortmann
Duration of the performance: 2 hours and 55 minutes, 1 intermission