Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • Europe launches navigation satellites to rival GPS

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • Iraqi Sunnis quit govt talks after mosque massacre

    Read more

  • US demands Russia withdraw aid convoy from Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rights group sues US government over ‘deportation mill’

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • US National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Missouri town

    Read more

  • Fed Chair says US job market still hampered by Great Recession

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Central African Republic announces coalition cabinet

    Read more

  • Hamas publicly executes "informers"

    Read more

  • French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu set to be Erdogan's new PM

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

France

A blond and modern Carmen returns to Paris opera

© Opéra national de Paris / Charles Duprat

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2012-12-10

French composer Georges Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen had been absent from Paris’s opera scene for a decade. It is back in the French capital through December 29, but with a modern twist that might strike the wrong note with some audiences.

It is almost 140 years old and one of the most performed operas of all time, but Georges Bizet’s signature opera Carmen continues to stir passions in Paris. After a 10-year absence from the French capital’s opera scene, the sultry gypsy is back under the direction of Yves Beaunesne.

All shows at the Opéra Bastille have been sold out in advance for the new Carmen, but a packed house may not be synonymous with popular acclaim this time around.

At the end of a dress rehearsal on December 1, the audience booed Beaunesne when he appeared on stage. This first, frigid reception had many wondering if Carmen’s new 1970s makeover had gone too far.

Back to the the ‘Movida’

Beaunesne has chosen to bring the action into the more recent past, to the years immediately following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975 and the transition to democracy in Spain.

Indeed, the setting is the Movida, a time when Franco-era social mores were first challenged and whose spirit was best captured on the big screen by filmmaker Pedro Almodovar in such films as “Pepi, Luci, Bom” and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”.

From Anna Caterina Antonacci’s (Carmen) bleach-blonde wig to the towering transsexual who parades in plastic breasts through musical numbers, the Almodovaran influence of this new incarnation is unmistakable. In the third act, in a preamble to the traditional bullfight, huge puppets and frolicking circus artists flood the massive stage.

“Almodovar speaks to me, especially because he has this exceptional love for women that is magnified through his films,” Beaunesne recently explained in an interview with Radio France International. “They are beautiful, strong and violent; they contain all the world’s qualities and defects. All the kinds of things we also find in Carmen.”

A rebellious bird

Carmen’s transformation does not end with her hair colour. The castanets and flamenco dress give way to low-cut black dresses, but perhaps more strikingly, an aloof and introspective personality.

According to Antonacci, who has played Carmen previously on other stages, the new Carmen’s penchant for contemplation posed some challenges. “It was not obvious at the beginning. This Carmen internalises her feelings and is not as radiant as we’ve seen her in the past.”

Indeed, Carmen’s traditional hit parade, including the songs "Love is a rebellious bird” and “Near the ramparts of Seville”, figure as intimate and even disturbing melodies.

Other characters are also treated to similar metamorphoses under Beaunesne’s direction. For example, the upstanding and even noble Escamillo (Ludovic Tézier) is swapped for a gaudy gambler in a white suit and gold chain.

Nevertheless, Carmen traditionalists looking for something reassuringly familiar can take solace in the precision of Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan, whose arrangements are faithful to Bizet’s original score and finely played by the orchestra.

Carmen is at the Paris National Opéra at Bastille, from December 4-29. For last-minute (standing-room only) tickets for €5, line up outside Opéra Bastille before showtimes. The opera can also be heard on France Musique radio on December 22 or in selected movie theatres on December 13.

Date created : 2012-12-05

  • MUSIC

    Bringing the sacred choral tradition back to France

    Read more

  • FRANCE - THEATRE

    Revamped 'Nixon in China' opera to open in Paris

    Read more

  • RUSSIA - CULTURE

    Russia's Bolshoi Theatre re-opens after six-year overhaul

    Read more

COMMENT(S)