What to Expect from Carmen
Strong-willed , fiery, and tempes tuous: the character of Carmen has captivated the world’s imagination for more than a century and a half. The beautiful gypsy, who first came to life in Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella and became immortal through Bizet’s operatic adaptation 30 years later, has been portrayed by stars from Rita Hayworth to Beyoncé, and her story has been told in flamenco, in hip-hop, in settings from the Netherlands to South Africa, in a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon, and in more than 70 films by directors as diverse as Charlie Chaplin and Jean-Luc Godard.
This season, director Richard Eyre’s hit production of Bizet’s opera, first seen in 2009, returns to the Met stage with Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili reprising her acclaimed performance of the title role, opposite Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko as Don José. “Carmen is about sex, violence, and racism—and its corollary: freedom,” Eyre explained before his staging originally premiered. “It is one of the inalienably great works of art. It’s sexy, in every sense. And I think it should be shocking.”
Carmen can be seen as a crucial bridge between the more conservative French tradition of opéra comique and the verismo style so popular in late- 19th century Italy. After decades dominated by the Romantic movement—in which idealism and sentiment were the aesthetic order of the day—verismo probed the passions of human existence through more realistic expression, reflecting life as it is lived, including all its sordidness and violence.
This guide is intended to cultivate student interest in Carmen, whether or not they have any prior acquaintance with opera. The activities on the following pages are designed to provide context, deepen background knowledge, and enrich the overall experience of this Live in HD transmission. This guide also aligns with key strands of the Common Core Standards.
A full-length activity, designed to support your ongoing curriculum.
Four "Musical Highlights" designed to focus on bits of music from Carmen to cultivate familiarity with the work.
Performance Activities for students to enjoy during the Metropolitan Opera HD transmission.
A post-transmission activity, integrating the Live in HD experience into students' wider views of the performing arts and humanities.
Carmen at the Met
Now Carmen returns to the Met stage—and is brought to the HD screen—in a new production by Olivier Award winner Richard Eyre, starring Elīna Garanča in the iconic title role and Roberto Alagna as the obsessed soldier Don José. “Carmen is about sex, violence, and racism—and its corollary: freedom,” the director says. “It is one of the inalienably great works of art. It’s sexy, in every sense. And I think it should be shocking.”
While telling a dramatic and passionate story, the opera also raises enduring philosophical questions about the nature of freedom, the barriers of social class, life outside the law, and the limits of romance. And then there’s Bizet’s immortal music—melodies that have made their way into the global songbook and even to Broadway, in Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones.
The material and activities in this guide are designed to involve students in the thrills, the conflicts, and the musical drama of Carmen. In the full-length Classroom Activity, they will investigate connections between Carmen and the timeless subject of liberty. Shorter activities invite close listening to Bizet’s music and discussion of some of the composer’s techniques. By introducing students to a work that has captivated generations of opera-goers, this guide will help you engage young people’s interest in the Met’s Live in HD production of Carmen.
The synopsis can be found here.