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STUDENT STUDY GUIDE

A co-production with Boston Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera

Jennifer Johnson Cano sings the title role in BLO’s Carmen. LIZA VOLL PHOTOGRAPHY


Esther Nelson Stanford Calderwood General & Artistic Director David Angus Music Director John Conklin Artistic Advisor

September 12, 2016

Dear Educator, Boston Lyric Opera is pleased to invite high school and college students to attend Final Dress Rehearsals throughout our 40th Anniversary Season. We look forward to seeing you and your students at the Boston Opera House for this production of Bizet’s Carmen, Spanish Director, Calixto Benito’s provocative groundbreaking production and East Coast premiere. The experience of seeing and hearing live, professional opera is second to none. And we encourage you to explore the world of the opera in your classroom as well. We are proud to offer this study guide to support your discussions and preparations for Carmen. We’ve included special insights into this particular production as well as the opera’s history with connections to Social Studies, and English Language Arts. Boston Lyric Opera’s mission is to build curiosity, enthusiasm, and support for opera. This study guide is one way in which we support the incredible work of educators like you, who are inspired by this beautiful art form and introduce it to your students. As we continue to develop additional study guides this season, we want your feedback. Please tell us about how you use this guide and how it can best serve your needs by emailing education@blo.org. If you’re interested in additional opera education opportunities with Boston Lyric Opera, please visit blo.org/education to discover more about our programs. We look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,

Rebecca Ann S. Kirk Manager of Education Programs


TABLE OF CONTENTS WELCOME LETTER FROM BLO MANAGER OF EDUCATION............................................................................................................

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HISTORY OF OPERA: AN OVERVIEW................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 4 THE SCIENCE AND ART OF OPERA........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 7 CARMEN SYNOPSIS .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 11 CHARACTERS................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 11 THE ORIGIN............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 12 THE GYPSY MYSTIQUE...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 13 BIZET—THE STORY OF A MAN WHO FOLLOWED HIS PASSION............................................................................................ 14 FROM FLOP TO BLOCKBUSTER........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 15 THE CLASSIC: WHAT MAKES A STORY TIMELESS................................................................................................................................................................... 15 A CONTEMPORARY OPERA............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 16 CEUTA: A CARMEN ON THE BORDER OF AFRICA............................................................................................................................................................... 16 SOUL SISTERS: CARMEN AND BEYONCÉ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 17 LISTEN UP!..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 18 RESOURCES.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 20 NOTES TO PREPARE FOR THE OPERA............................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 21

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THE HISTORY OF OPERA Toccata from L’Orfeo. Claudio Monteverdi Favola in musica. Reprint of the First Edition of the Score, Venice 1609, via Wikimedia Commons

People have been telling stories through music for millennia throughout the world. Opera is an art form with roots in Western Europe dating back hundreds of years. Here is a brief timeline of the lineage.

RENAISSANCE 1573 The Florentine Camerata was founded in Italy, devoted to reviving ancient Greek musical traditions, including sung drama. 1598 Jacopo Peri, a member of the Camerata, composed the world’s first opera – Dafne, reviving the classic myth. 1607 Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) wrote the first opera to become popular, Orfeo, making him the premier opera composer of his day and bridging the gap between Renaissance and Baroque music. His works are still performed today. BAROQUE

1600-1750

1637 The first public opera house, Teatro San Cassiano, was built in Venice, Italy. 1673 Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) Italian-born composer, brought opera to the French court, creating a unique style, tragédie en musique, that better suited the French language. Blurring the lines between recitative and aria, he created fast-paced dramas to suit the tastes of French aristocrats. 1689 Henry Purcell’s (1659-1695) simple and elegant chamber opera, Dido and Aeneas, premiered at Josias Priest’s boarding school for girls in London. 1712 George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), a German-born composer, moved to London, where he found immense success writing intricate and highly ornamented Italian opera seria (serious opera). Ornamentation refers to stylized, fast-moving notes, usually improvised by the singer to make a musical line more interesting and to showcase their vocal talent.

Dido and Aeneas, 1747 Pompeo Batoni, via Wikimedia Commons

1730-1820

CLASSICAL

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1750s A reform movement, led by composer Christoph Gluck (1714-1787), rejected the flashy ornamented style of the Baroque in favor of simplicity refined to enhance the drama. 1767 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote his first opera at age 11, beginning his 25-year opera career. Mozart mastered, then innovated in several operatic forms. He wrote opera seria, including La Clemenza di Tito, and opera buffa (comedic operas) like Le Nozze di Figaro. He then combined the two genres in Don Giovanni, calling it dramma giocoso. Mozart also innovated on the form of Singspiel (German sung play), featuring a spoken dialogue as in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

1805 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) although a prolific composer, wrote only one opera, Fidelio. The extremes of musical expression in Beethoven’s music pushed the boundaries in the late Classical period and inspired generations of Romantic composers.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)


Giacomo Puccini

Richard Wagner

ROMANTIC — THE GOLDEN AGE OF OPERA 1816 Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) composed Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), becoming the most prodigious opera composer in Italy by age 24. He wrote 39 operas in 20 years. This new style created by Rossini and his contemporaries, including Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini, would, a century later, be referred to as bel canto (beautiful singing). Bel canto compositions were inspired by the nuanced vocal capabilities of the human voice and its expressive potential. Composers employed a strategic use of register, the push and pull of tempo (rubato), extremely smooth and connected phrases (legato), and vocal glides (portamento). 1842 Inspired by the risqué popular entertainment of French vaudeville, Hervé created the first operetta, a short comedic musical drama with spoken dialogue. Responding to popular trends, this new form stood in contrast to the increasingly serious and dramatic works at the grand Parisian opera house. Opéra comique as a genre was often not comic, rather realistic or humanistic. Grand Opera, on the contrary, was exaggerated and melodramatic. 1853 Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) completed La Traviata, a story of love, loss, and the struggle of average people, in the increasingly popular realistic style of verismo. Verdi enjoyed immense acclaim during his lifetime, while expanding opera to include larger orchestras, extravagant sets and costumes, and more highly trained voices.

A scene from a 19th-century version of the play The Barber of Seville by Pierre Beaumarchais. Its origins in the commedia dell’arte are shown in this picture which portrays Figaro dressed in the costume and mask of Harlequin. 1884, via Wikimedia Commons

1865 Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) Tristan und Isolde was the beginning of musical modernism, pushing the use of traditional harmony to its extreme. His massively ambitious, lengthy operas, often based in German folklore, sought to synthesize music, theater, poetry, and visuals in what he called a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). The most famous of these was an epic four-opera drama, Der Ring des Nibelungen, which took him 26 years to write and was completed in 1874. 1871 Influenced by French operetta, English librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) began their 25-year partnership, which produced 14 comic operettas including The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Their works inspired the genre of American musical theater. THE HISTORY OF OPERA

1790-1910

Giuseppe Verdi

1874 Johann Strauss II, influenced largely by his father, with whom he shared a name and talent, composed Die Fledermaus, popularizing Viennese musical traditions, namely the waltz, and shaping operetta. 1896 Giacomo Puccini’s (1858-1924) La Bohème captivated audiences with its intensely beautiful music, realism, and raw emotion. Puccini enjoyed huge acclaim during his lifetime for his works.

Mikado Theatre poster, Edinburgh, 1885, via Wikimedia Commons

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Hammerstein and Kern

Leonard Bernstein

Scott Joplin

20TH CENTURY 1911 Scott Joplin, “The King of Ragtime,” wrote his only opera, Treemonisha, which was not performed until 1972. The work combined the European late-Romantic operatic style with African American folk songs, spirituals, and dances. The libretto, also by Joplin, was written at a time when literacy among African Americans in the southern United States was rare.

20TH CENTURY

1922 Alban Berg (1885-1935) composed the first completely atonal opera, Wozzeck, dealing with uncomfortable themes of militarism and social exploitation. Wozzeck is in the style of 12-tone music or Serialism. This new compositional style, developed in Vienna, placed equal importance on each of the 12 pitches in a scale, removing the sense of the music being in a particular key. 1927 American musical theater, commonly referred to as Broadway, was taken more seriously after Jerome Kern’s (1885-1945) Show Boat, words by Oscar Hammerstein, tackled issues of racial segregation and the ban on interracial marriage in Mississippi. 1935 American composer George Gershwin (1898-1937), who was influenced by African American music and culture, debuted his opera, Porgy and Bess, in Boston, MA, with an all African American cast of classically trained singers. 1945 British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) gained international recognition with his opera Peter Grimes. Britten, along with Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), was one of the first British opera composers to gain fame in nearly 300 years. 1957 Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), known for synthesizing musical genres, brought together the best of American musical theater, opera, and ballet in West Side Story—a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet in a contemporary setting.

Porgy and Bess by the New York Harlem Theatre 2009

1987 John Adams (b. 1947) composed one of the great minimalist operas, Nixon in China, the story of Nixon’s 1972 meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Musical Minimalism strips music down to its essential elements, usually featuring a great deal of repetition with slight variations. TODAY Still a vibrant and evolving art form, opera attracts contemporary composers such as Dominick Argento (b. 1927), Philip Glass (b. 1937), Mark-Anthony Turnage (b. 1960), Thomas Adès (b. 1971), and many others. These composers continue to be influenced by present and historical musical forms in creating new operas that explore current issues or reimagine ancient tales.

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SO YOUNG PARK as QUEEN OF THE NIGHT Photo: Eric Antoniou.

THE SCIENCE AND ART OF OPERA WHY DO OPERA SINGERS SOUND LIKE THAT? Opera is unique among forms of singing in that singers are trained to be able to sing without amplification, in large theaters, over an entire orchestra, and still be heard and understood! This is what sets the art form of opera apart from similar forms such as musical theater. To become a professional opera singer, it takes years of intense physical training and constant practice—not unlike that of a ballet dancer—to stay in shape. Additionally, while ballet dancers can dance through pain and illness, poor health, especially respiratory issues and even allergies, can be severely debilitating for a professional opera singer. Let’s peek into some of the science of this art form.

HOW THE VOICE WORKS Singing requires different parts of the body to work together: the lungs, the vocal cords, the vocal tract, and the articulators (lips, teeth, and tongue). The lungs create a flow of air over the vocal cords, which vibrate. That vibration is amplified by the vocal tract and broken up into words by consonants produced by the articulators. Vibration: If you run your fingers along your throat you will feel a little lump just underneath your chin. That is your “Adam’s Apple,” and right behind it, housed in the larynx (voice-box), are your vocal cords. When air from the lungs crosses over the vocal cords it creates an area of low pressure (google The Bernoulli Effect), which brings the cords together and makes them vibrate. This vibration produces a buzz. The vocal chords can be lengthened or shortened by muscles in the larynx, or by increasing the speed of air flow. This change in the length and thickness of the vocal cords is what allows singers to create different pitches. Higher pitches require long, thin cords, while low pitches require short, thick ones. Professional singers take great pains to protect the delicate anatomy of their vocal cords with hydration and rest, as the tiniest scarring or inflammation can have noticeable effects on the quality of sound produced.

Resonance: Without the resonating chambers in the head, the buzzing of the vocal cords would sound very unpleasant. The vocal tract, a term encompassing the mouth cavity, and the back of the throat, down to the larynx, shapes the buzzing of the vocal cords like a sculptor shapes clay. Shape your mouth in an ee vowel (as in eat), then sharply inhale a few times. The cool sensation you feel at the top and back of your mouth is your soft palate. The soft palate can raise or lower to change the shape of the vocal tract. Opera singers always strive to sing with a raised soft palate, which allows for the greatest amplification of the sound produced by the vocal cords. Different vowel sounds are produced by raising or lowering the tongue. Say the vowels: ee, eh, ah, oh, oo and notice how each vowel requires a slightly lower tongue placement. This area of vocal training is particularly difficult because none of the anatomy is visible from the outside!

Articulation: The lips, teeth, and tongue are all used to create consonant sounds, which separate words into syllables and make language intelligible. Consonants must be clear and audible for the singer to be understood. Because opera singers do not sing with amplification, their articulation must be particularly good. The challenge lies in producing crisp, rapid consonants without interrupting the connection of the vowels (through the controlled exhale of breath) within the musical phrase.

THE SCIENCE AND ART OF OPERA

Breath: Any good singer will tell you that good breath support is essential to produce quality sound. Breath is like the gas that goes into your car. Without it, nothing runs. In order to sing long phrases of music with clarity and volume, opera singers access their full lung capacity by keeping the torso elongated and releasing the lower abdomen and diaphragm muscles, which allows air to enter into the lower lobes of the lungs. This is why we associate a certain posture with opera singers. In the past, many operas were staged with singers standing in one place to deliver an entire aria or scene, with minimal activity. Modern productions, however, often demand a much greater range of movement and agility onstage, requiring performers to be physically fit, and disproving the stereotype of the “fat lady sings.”

Perfecting every element of this complex singing system requires years of training, and is essential for the demands of the art form. An opera singer must be capable of singing for hours at a time, over the top of an orchestra, in large opera houses, while acting and delivering an artistic interpretation of the music. It is complete and total engagement of mental, physical, and emotional control and expression. Therefore think of opera singers as the Olympic athletes of the stage, sit back, and marvel at what the human body is capable of! 7


Contralto

Somewhat equivalent to the lower female alto role in a chorus, mezzosopranos (mezzo translated as “middle”) are known for their full and expressive qualities. While they don’t sing frequencies quite as high as sopranos, their ranges do overlap, and it is a “darker” tone that sets them apart. One of the most famous mezzo-soprano lead roles is Carmen in Bizet’s Carmen.

Occasionally women have an even lower range that overlaps with the highest male voice. This voice type is more rare and they often play male characters, referred to in opera as trouser roles.

Tenor

The highest male voice; tenors often sing the role of the hero. One of the most famous tenor roles is Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliet. Occasionally men have cultivated very high voices singing in a range similar to a mezzo-soprano, but using their falsetto. Called the Countertenor, this role is often found in Baroque music. Countertenors replaced castrati in the heroic lead roles of Baroque opera after the practice of castration was deemed unethical.

A middle-range male voice, baritones can range from sweet and mild in tone, to darker dramatic and full tones. A famous baritone role is Rigoletto in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Baritones who are most comfortable in a slightly lower range are known as Bass-Baritones, a hybrid of the two lowest voice types.

Baritone Bass

Mezzo-Soprano

Opera singers are cast into roles based on their tessitura (the range of notes they can sing comfortably). There are many descriptors that accompany the basic voice types, but here are some of the most common ones:

The lowest male voice, basses often fall into two main categories: basso buffo, which is a comic character who often sings in lower laughing-like tones, and basso profundo, which is as low as the human voice can sing! Doctor Bartolo is an example of a bass role in The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini.

Bass

C

The highest female voice; some sopranos are designated as coloratura as they specialize in being able to sing very fast moving notes that are very high in frequency and light in tone, often referred to as “color notes.” One of the most famous coloratura roles is The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Soprano

DIFFERENT VOICE TYPES

D

Baritone

E

F

G

A

Tenor Contralto

B

110 HZ

C

D

E

Mezzo-Soprano

F

G

A

Soprano

B

C

220 HZ

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

440 HZ

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

880 HZ

Each of the voice types (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass) also tends to be sub-characterized by whether it is more Lyric or Dramatic in tone. Lyric singers tend toward smooth lines in their music, sensitively expressed interpretation, and flexible agility. Dramatic singers have qualities that are attributed to darker, fuller, richer note qualities expressed powerfully and robustly with strong emotion. While its easiest to understand operatic voice types through these designations and descriptions, one of the most exciting things about listening to a singer perform is that each individual’s voice is essentially unique, thus each singer will interpret a role in an opera in a different way. 8

E

F


THE PHYSICS OF OPERA SINGERS What is it about opera singers that allows them to be heard above the orchestra? It’s not that they simply singing louder. The qualities of sound have to do with the relationship between the frequency (pitch) of a sound, represented in a unit of measurement called hertz, and its amplitude, measured in decibels, which the ear perceives as loudness. Only artificially produced sounds, however, create a pure frequency and amplitude (these are the only kind that can break glass). The sound produced by a violin, a drum, a voice, or even smacking your hand on a table, produces a fundamental frequency as well as secondary, tertiary, etc. frequencies known as overtones, or as musicians call them, harmonics. For instance, the orchestra tunes to a concert “A” pitch before a performance. Concert “A” has a frequency of about 440 hertz, but that is not the only pitch you will hear. Progressively softer pitches above that fundamental pitch are produced in multiples of 440 at 880hz, 1320hz, 1760hz, etc. Each different instrument in the orchestra, because of it’s shape, construction, and mode in which it produces sound, produces different harmonics. This is what makes a violin, for example, have a different color or timbre from a trumpet. Generally, the harmonics of the instruments in the orchestra fade around 2500hz. Overtones produced by a human voice—whether speaking, yelling, or singing—are referred to as formants. As the demands of opera stars increased, vocal teachers discovered that by manipulating the empty space within the vocal tract, they could emphasize higher frequencies within the overtone series—frequencies above 2500 hz. This technique allowed singers to perform without hurting their vocal chords, as they are not actually singing at a higher fundamental decibel level than the orchestra. Swedish voice scientist, Johann Sundberg, observed this phenomenon when he recorded the world-famous tenor Jussi Bjoerling in 1970. His research showed multiple peaks in decibel level, with the strongest frequency (overtone) falling between 2500 and 3000 hertz. This frequency, known as the singer’s formant, is the “sweet spot” for singers so that we hear their voices soaring over the orchestra into the opera house night after night.

THE SCIENCE AND ART OF OPERA

Listen Up!

Prof. Tecumseh Fitch, evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Vienna, explains the difference between a fundamental frequency and formant frequency in the human voice. For an opera singer, the lower two formants (peaks on a graph) determine the specific vowel sound. The third formant and above add overtones that are specific to each particular singer’s voice-like a fingerprint. When two people sing the same note simultaneously, the high overtones allow your ear to distinguish two voices. 9


Boston Opera House

A RESONANT PLACE The final piece of the puzzle in creating the perfect operatic sound is the opera house or theater itself. Designing the perfect acoustic space can be an almost impossible task, one which requires tremendous knowledge of science, engineering, and architecture, as well as an artistic sensibility. The goal of the acoustician is to make sure that everyone in the audience can clearly understand the music being produced onstage, no matter where they are sitting. A perfectly designed opera house or concert hall (for non-amplified sound) functions almost like gigantic musical instrument. Reverberation is one key aspect in making a singer’s words intelligible or an orchestra’s melodies clear. Imagine the sound your voice would make in the shower or a cave. The echo you hear is reverberation caused by the large, hard, smooth surfaces. Too much reverberation (bouncing sound waves) can make words difficult to understand. Resonant vowel sounds overlap as they bounce off of hard surfaces and cover up quieter consonant sounds. In these environments, sound carries a long way but becomes unclear or, as it is sometimes called, wet – as if the sound were underwater. Acousticians can mitigate these effects by covering smooth surfaces with textured materials like fabric, perforated metal, or diffusers, which absorb and disperse sound. These tools, however, must be used carefully, as too much absorption can make a space dry – meaning the sound onstage will not carry at all and the performers may have trouble even hearing themselves. Imagine singing into a pillow or under a blanket. The shape of the room itself also contributes to the way the audience perceives the music. Most large performance spaces are shaped like a bell – small where the stage is, and growing larger and more spread out in every dimension as one moves farther away. This shape helps to create a clear path for the sound to reach every seat. In designing concert halls or opera houses, big decisions must be made about the construction of the building based on acoustical needs. Even with the best planning, the perfect acoustic is not guaranteed, but professionals are constantly learning and adapting new scientific knowledge to enhance the audience’s experience.

Boston Symphony Hall, opened in 1900, with acoustical design by Harvard physicist Wallace Clement Sabine, was the first concert hall to be designed with scientific acoustic principles in mind. Each seat was mathematically designed and placed for maximum acoustical perfection.

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CARMEN SYNOPSIS Act 1: Outside a cigarette factory in Ceuta, a Spanish city in Northern Africa, dragoons (cavalry soldiers) from the local fort press forward to see the cigarette girls on their lunch break. They especially wait to see the beautiful, exotic gypsy Carmen. She sings a habanera and flirts with Don José, a cavalry corporal, because he is the only man who pays no attention to her. Later, José’s fiancée Micaëla arrives, bringing greetings from his mother. Back in the factory, a furious fight breaks out started by Carmen. She is arrested and handed over to José. During the interrogation conducted by the lieutenant Zuniga, Carmen refuses to answer questions; instead, she cheekily sings to herself. Once alone with José, she flirts with him, promising a rendezvous later that night—if he lets her escape. Finally tempted, José agrees and feigns being thrown to the ground, enabling Carmen to run away. José’s superiors see through his ruse, and he is punished with one month in prison. Act 2: Carmen hangs out with her two girl-friends, Frasquita and Mercédès. As they flirt and entertain Zuniga and a few other officers, she learns that José has been released from prison. The party hears the townspeople cheering as the famous bullfighter Escamillo arrives. He flirts with Carmen but she rejects his advances, saying she is in love with José. The crowd follows Escamillo as he leaves. Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès are persuaded by a couple of friends, Dancaïre and Remendado, to help dispose of some recently acquired contraband. Carmen declines as she prefers to wait for José. Finally alone together, she beguiles him with a private exotic dance, but a bugle call from the barracks interrupts them. José, who has been demoted to the rank of private, says he must return to his regiment. Carmen derides and mocks him, torturing José. Zuniga returns with hopes of seducing the beautiful gypsy. Blind with jealousy, José lunges at his superior officer, but before they kill each other, Dancaïre and Remendado return and separate them. They urge José to leave his regiment to join them and at this point, he has no choice but to do so. Act 3: José, who has run off with Carmen and her friends, thinks with remorse of his aged mother. Carmen is tired and annoyed with José saying he should just go back to her. Frasquita and Mercédès pass the time by reading tarot. Carmen’s cards reveal death for her and José. José stands guard while the rest of the party leaves to conduct their illicit business. Micaëla enters, looking for José so that she can rescue him, but a light startles her and she hides. The intruder turns out to be Escamillo, who is searching for Carmen. José’s relief quickly turns to a jealous rage when he discovers Escamillo’s intentions. Carmen returns just in time to separate them. In the fray, Micaëla is discovered, and she tells José that his mother is dying, beseeching him to come home. José, stricken with grief, agrees, but not before promising—even threatening—Carmen that he will return. Act 4: A noisy crowd is awaiting the arrival of the bullfighter. Escamillo enters with Carmen on his arm. Frasquita and Mercedes warn Carmen of José, who they have seen lurking around. Carmen shuns their warnings, and says that she will confront José and end the relationship once and for all. After the crowd enters the arena and the fight begins, José appears and implores Carmen to come back to him. She throws the ring that he gave her at him, defiantly rejecting his pleas. In a fit of blind rage, José stabs Carmen just as Escamillo defeats the bull. José falls sobbing over her corpse in guilty despair. Adapted from San Francisco Opera’s Synopsis of Carmen

CHARACTERS Carmen, a gypsy who works in the cigarette factory

mezzo-soprano

Don José, Corporal of Dragoons (a cavalry unit)

tenor

Escamillo, Toreador (professional bullfighter)

bass-baritone

Micaëla, Don José’s fiancée from his hometown

soprano

Zuniga, Lieutenant of Dragoons

bass

Moralès, Corporal of Dragoons

baritone CARMEN SYNOPSIS

Frasquita, Carmen’s friend soprano Mercédès, Carmen’s friend mezzo-soprano Lillas Pastia, local townsman

actor

Le Dancaïre, smuggler gypsy

baritone

Le Remendado, smuggler gypsy

tenor

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THE ORIGIN

Prosper Mérimée

Bizet got the idea for his opera Carmen from a novella (short novel) by Prosper Mérimée published in 1845. Prosper Mérimée was a popular French playwright, novelist, historian, and activist of his day. Many of his works have been adapted into operas, plays, and films. At a time when Western Europe was fascinated with foreign lands and exotic cultures, Mérimée’s novella was still well known 30 years after it was published, and became the sensational story for Bizet’s final opera. Mérimée’s novella has some prominent differences from Bizet’s version. In adapting a story for opera it is common to alter certain story elements—just as when we see our favorite novel turned into a film, we may notice significant changes. Carmen, however, presented challenges that few librettists before Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy had to face. Though the opera still shocked audiences with its bawdiness and violence, the librettists had greatly toned-down these elements from the source material. Mérimée’s story is divided into four chapters, and narrated in first person as historical fiction recounting a Frenchman’s travels (coincidentally resembling Mérimée himself) through the Andalusia region of Southern Spain. In the first chapter, he meets Don José, a criminal on the run, after the events in the opera have already taken place. In the second chapter, the Frenchman encounters Carmen in her home. She has offered to tell his fortune, but José arrives interrupting them. The third chapter occurs in a jail cell, the day before Don José’s execution. Here José recounts the story of how he met Carmen—the chapter where the events of the opera are detailed. The forth chapter is made up of scholarly anthropological notes of the Gypsy and Basque people, both of whom were marginalized as minorities in Spain. As a work of fiction, however, it was later confirmed that most of this “scholarship” was largely fabricated. When comparing Mérimée’s original to Bizet’s opera, there are some notable differences. Carmen is portrayed as a savage character and the leader of the band of smugglers. She is the only female character. The opera’s librettists added more women to the story including Micaëla’s character, as the young ingénue foil to Carmen’s challenging persona. They also add two female friends for Carmen: Mércèdes and Frasquita. The role of some of the minor characters in the novella are expanded in the libretto. In the novella, Escamillo goes by the name of Lucas and never actually meets Carmen. She is merely infatuated from afar by the young picador. Also, Carmen’s smuggler friends, Dancaïre and Remendado, only get a brief mention in the novella. Don José is Basque in the novella, and a Spaniard in the opera. As alluded to, the novella is much more explicit and violent than the opera. José, who is restrained from attacking his lieutenant, Zuniga, in the opera, is not stopped in the novella and ends up killing him. In the novella, Carmen has a husband who joins the band of smugglers and murders one of their wounded members (a dagger to the groin!) when he can’t keep up. José stabs Carmen’s husband in turn, after provoking him into a knife fight, then marries Carmen. In the opera, Carmen and José do not marry. While Meilhac and Halévy were a practiced team at writing opera libretti for l’Opéra Comique, Bizet made significant edits to their original draft as the composition and rehearsal process for the opera got underway, claiming it strayed too far from Mérimée’s original intent. The final product, like many operas, was the result of tremendous creative collaboration of all the artists involved. DISCUSS: How would you adapt the opera of Carmen to connect with an audience of your peers? What would you change? What would you keep the same? 12

Bizet’s manuscript of the Habanera from Carmen.


THE GYPSY MYSTIQUE

Tarot cards play an important thematic role in Carmen when the three gypsy women ask the cards to tell of their future husbands. Carmen draws the card of Death. Tarot dates back to 15th century Southwestern Europe as a deck of common playing cards with four suits, the addition of 21 trump cards featuring various characters and allegories like The Lovers, Judgement, Justice, and Death, and The Fool, which is often used as a wild card (related to the Joker in presentday decks). Over the course of the last 600 years, Tarot has been used in a variety of ways by different peoples. By the 18th century, they were being used as a tool for divination or fortune-telling. Though the cards hold no religious affiliation, their superstitious implications carried great importance for some, and have been referenced many times in the arts and literature throughout and Western culture.

Gypsy culture has had a profound cultural impact on Europe and Western Asia since their emigration from the Punjab region of India between the eighth and tenth centuries. When the gypsy peoples first arrived in the west, Europeans mistook them for Egyptians, giving rise to the common name. As a nomadic people, gypsies spread all over Europe, developing many cultural variations and subgroups. Most gypsies today are actually a part of the Romani people, but they are called many names, depending on the country in which they settled. In Spain, they became known as Gitanos after their arrival in the Southern region of Andalusia in the 15th century. This is the group about which Prosper Mérimée wrote in his original novella, Carmen, inspired by his travels in Spain. Mérimée attempted to catalog information on the Gitanos in his final chapter of Carmen, but most historians now agree that the writings are largely inaccurate. The history of the Rom people is hazy because it is passed down orally. Between the appropriation and biases of the Western culture in which they are viewed, and the lack of written resources, they remain a largely misrepresented people.

CARMEN SYNOPSIS

In France, the term bohemian became synonymous to gypsy but often referred to artists as well, thus recognizing the substantial cultural contributions of the Romani people in music, dance, story-telling, and artisan crafting. The fascination with gypsy life became popular in the 19th century with the rise of the middle class as they idealized a life opposite theirs, – gypsy life evoking complete freedom, lawlessness, sensuality of the arts, and the mysticism of fortune-telling and superstition.This in-turn led to many European artists’ interpretations of gypsies through works of music, visual art, dance, and theater. Flamenco dancing, which Carmen performs for Don José in the traditional staging of the opera, has its origins in the melting-pot of Andalusia and incorporates elements of numerous minority cultures including the Muslim Morisco people with roots in North Africa, Jews, and Romani. The dance is typically performed with a proud, upright posture, expressive arms, and percussive footwork. The frilly dresses that many people associate with flamenco were incorporated later as the dance became popular performed at the Seville April Fair. Soon a tourist spectacle, the aesthetic would eventually be incorporated into the French vaudeville houses where Bizet, himself, was known to frequent.

Flamenco: Ilusiones; By Carmel Natan Sheli 2012

Throughout most of their history, the Romani people have been the targets of social and economic discrimination world-wide. During the Holocaust, the Romani were one of the groups targeted by Nazis who killed an estimated one quarter of the million Romani in Europe at the time. For hundreds of years, until as recently as 1977, various anti-Gitano laws in Spain prevented their people from settling together, running for public office, speaking their language, or practicing their rituals. Discrimination against Romani people continues today, as they are often conflated with illegal immigrants, refugees and even vagrants, although there are efforts being made to address these issues.

DISCUSS: What cultures do we find exotic today? How might we be able to come to a deeper understanding of that culture beyond its stereotypes? 13


Georges Bizet

BIZET—THE STORY OF A MAN WHO FOLLOWED HIS PASSION Many people grow up speaking two languages. Georges Bizet seems to have grown up speaking French and Music. His mother, Aimée Delsarte, an accomplished pianist, taught him piano lessons, where he learned to read and write music at a very early age. His father, Adolphe, an untrained but highly successful singer, taught voice lessons in their home. Bizet listened from outside the door and began learning to sing complex melodies in their entirety. Seeing their son’s immense talent, Adolphe and Aimée enrolled nine-year-old Georges into the Paris Conservatoire de Musique a year earlier than the Conservatory typically allowed. By seventeen, Bizet had written his own symphony. A year later, he won the Prix de Rome, which funded five years of study in Rome, Paris, and throughout Germany. After finishing his studies, Bizet worked at the Opéra Comique, where Carmen would eventually premiere. The iconic rhythm of the music where the Habanera gets its name. There he learned the ins and outs of life in the theater, and Bizet believed it was a Spanish folk song. Later he discovered it had likely developed an affinity for the genre of opera. been written by Spanish composer Sebastián Yradier and gave him credit. The original dance rhythm though, is not Spanish at all and Bizet’s academic successes, however, did not immediately actually has its roots in Afro-Cuban music. translate to popular appeal. His first public opera, Les Pêcheurs de Perles closed after 18 performances and mostly unfavorable reviews. Of the fifteen operas he wrote, Bizet saw only seven performed during his lifetime. Curiously, Bizet refused to fall back on his exceptional piano skills to make ends meet – even when his financial situation got increasingly dire – choosing instead to arrange, transcribe, and reduce other works. Bizet was incredibly cagey, almost embarrassed about his skill at the keyboard. On one rare occasion, Bizet perfectly sight-read one of Franz Liszt’s most difficult piano works, to the amazement of the composer in attendance.

Bizet carried on composing despite challenges and failures. The offer of a commission from the Opéra Comique infused the composer with new energy. He chose as his source material Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen, to be adapted by the successful librettist team of Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. The pair, who had made their reputation as librettists for the operettas of Jacques Offenbach, delegated their process – Meilhac wrote the dialogue and Halévy wrote the verses. Despite the pair’s prowess, Bizet insisted on adding lines and even entire verses in parts where he believed the libretto had strayed too far from the source material. Most notably, Bizet completely rewrote the words to the famous “Habanera” to suit his musical vision. Carmen presented an immense challenge in simply mounting the production. Countless directors and managers opposed the risqué story. Only the resignation of Adolphe de Leuven (a staunch opponent of the work) from the Opéra Comique allowed it to go forward. In rehearsal, the orchestra complained of certain excerpts being unplayable. The chorus, too, said some parts were unsingable, and they were unaccustomed to developing unique characters that did more than stand and sing. Before the opera’s premiere, the Opéra Comique wanted to edit some of the most improper scenes, which were salvaged only when the leading singers threatened to walk out. As expected, Parisian critics were highly critical of the plot and its immoral characters. The production would run for 48 shows between 1875 and 1876. Bizet died the day after its 33rd performance, before he got to see the opera captivate the rest of Europe, first at the Vienna Court Opera and then throughout the continent. DISCUSS: Can you name any rhythms used in contemporary music that were adopted from another kind of music? 14


FROM FLOP TO BLOCKBUSTER Taking on a gritty libretto like Carmen was a risk for Bizet. The refined audience of the Paris Grand Opera was not accustomed or equipped to confront such explicit portrayals of sexuality and violence (especially towards women). The music, which Bizet had sourced from the red light district in Paris and other areas of “low” society was, no doubt, equally upsetting to his bourgeoisie clientele. As a result, Carmen was received harshly by critics. Bizet himself believed the project a failure. The Paris newspaper, La Patrie, accused Carmen of contributing to the growing depravity of female characters, writing, “once they have sunk to the sewers of society they have to do so again and again; it is from down there that they have to choose their models.” Another reviewer attacked the leading lady, Célestine Galli-Marié, labeling her performance “trivial and brutal; she turns this feline girl into a cynical harlot.” Galli- Marié was a singer of undeniable talent and mastery of high Mezzo-Soprano repertoire – many of her seminal roles would be called Galli- Marié roles. Despite her accomplishments, her adamant support of Bizet throughout the dubious rehearsal period lead many to the assumption that the two were engaged in an affair. Similar unfavorable reviews greeted the opera in London and New York, where critics deemed the characters “eminently repulsive” and indulged more generally in saying “as a work of art it is naught.” Bizet, still lamenting over these reviews, died following the 33rd performance, shortly after signing a contract for production at the Vienna Court Opera. In Vienna, the opera found its legs. Critical and public opinions began to turn in spite of continued moralistic reservations. Carmen sold out houses throughout Europe and America – in Brussels, St. Petersburg, London, Dublin, Berlin, New York, and San Francisco. It won acclaim with composers, writers, and leaders from Massenet, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, to Nietzsche and Otto von Bismarck. Those who could palate the grit and really chew it over saw the opera for the delicious masterpiece it was. When Carmen returned to the Paris Opéra Comique in 1883, Parisian critics had a lot to answer for.

Carmen’s premiere poster at the Opéra Comique, 1875, via Wikimedia Commons

DISCUSS: How has the role of “the critic” changed or remained the same since 1875? How do music, art, film, or literary critics shape your views on what you see and listen to? THE CLASSIC: WHAT MAKES A STORY TIMELESS? How is it that a nearly 150-year-old love story still fascinates us, confounds us, and wrenches at our hearts? The relationship between Carmen and Don José is unlike that of any operatic love story before them. It isn’t brought on by some potion or magic spell, and it isn’t a part of some bet or scheme with disguises and masks. Their love alone is complicated, gritty, and magic enough for Bizet. These high emotions pluck our heart strings through the emotional power of music. We love Carmen because the characters feel real to us— and they are brought to life through music.

CARMEN SYNOPSIS

Around the turn of the century, the Italians would develop a word for this realism in art, verismo, at a time when Giacomo Puccini and others were making it a popular convention in opera and beyond. In many ways, the delayed, but immense success of Carmen paved the way for an artistic and philosophical revolution in opera. Fifteen years or so after Carmen premiered at the Paris Opéra Comique, composers including Giacomo Puccini and Ruggero Leoncavallo began composing operas like La Boheme (which would inspire the musical Rent) and Pagliacci, which focuses on the lives of common people in modern settings, with conflicts including poverty, sickness, love, and jealousy. This artistic realism and global themes of the human condition—issues of race, class, gender, and power—that we still struggle with today makes it possible to bring the story of Carmen to life again and again through the emotive tool of music. DISCUSS: What other timeless stories can you name and how have they been adapted to serve new audiences?

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A CONTEMPORARY OPERA So if Carmen broke down social and artistic barriers to earn its place amongst the greatest and most frequently performed operas of all time by presenting the lives of average people in modern day, how does a 136-year-old opera keep its edge for a modern audience without obscuring Bizet’s vision? Today, with depictions of graphic violence and sex pervading both news and entertainment media, our social conventions are vastly different. What once seemed revolutionary and risqué, is now tame, even trite. Today, vice is glamorized in film and music. Main characters shown graphically killed is a cornerstone of the many popular shows on television. Spanish director Calixto Bieito (think the Quentin Tarantino of the opera world) had some ideas about how to bring Carmen into the 21st Century. Known for his challenging, gritty, hyper-realistic, and sometimes upsetting interpretations of classic operas, Bieito staged the opening of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera with the chorus singing while squatted on toilets, pants at half-mast. He does not shy away from using striking images that are violent, sexual, or grotesque. But Bieito’s intentions go far beyond shock value. His bold directorial choices serve to intensify the story and score – its themes, characters, and conflicts. The Guardian reported in 2006, Bieito is not interested in theater that helps us to “forget about reality.” He believes that “it’s no good for society to be conservative in opera and theater.” This challenging perspective is what has made Bieito such a success and allows us to continue learning from the story of Carmen a century and half later. DISCUSS: Do you agree with Bieito, that theater has a duty to challenge audiences, even if it upsets them? Why or why not? CEUTA: A CARMEN ON THE BORDER OF AFRICA Calixto Bieito’s landmark production of Carmen, which originally premiered in 1999, is instantly distinguished by a crucial aspect – it isn’t set in Seville. Traditionally, the opera is indelibly associated with that city in the Andalusia region, with its traditions of flamenco dance and bullfighting, even though neither Bizet nor Mérimée, ever visited Spain. Speaking at the beginning of the BLO rehearsals, production revival stage director Joan Anton Rechi recalled traveling through the south of Spain with Bieito in the 1990s, searching for inspiration by visiting locations featured in the opera. “We wanted to do something very Spanish, but not folkloric,” he said, as he described the production team’s desire to tease audience expectations of perhaps the most recognizable opera in the world. He compared the traditional depictions of Carmen, complete with gypsy dress and castanets, to “Disneyland” – instead, they craved something raw, urgent, and real. They found that inspiration when they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish city of Ceuta, on the northern tip of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. Part of Spain since it was ceded by Portugal in 1668, Ceuta is one of two Spanish territories that are physically part of Africa – the other, Melilla, lies less than 250 miles east. Today, Ceuta is home to 80,000 people; about half are European, and half are Arabic-speaking Muslims, with small populations of Sephardic Jews and Sindhi Hindus. It is a city deeply divided, with roots both in Africa and in Europe. It is a magnet for migrants seeking asylum and better lives in the European Union – thousands regularly climb the border fences between Ceuta and Morocco, as well as make the crossing in boats to mainland Spain, only nine miles away at its closest point. Drug running, along with human trafficking, is common. Long a strategic military outpost, the creative team saw in Ceuta the possibility for a world of soldiers, nomads, smugglers – a Carmen, as Bieito eloquently put it, that “walks along the border.”

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Beyoncé in concert

Beyoncé’s homage to Dorothy Dandridge the actress who played Carmen in the 1954 film version of the musical Carmen Jones.

SOUL SISTERS: CARMEN AND BEYONCÉ The character of Carmen as originally imagined by Mérimée was a feisty, brazen woman who defied stereotypes of how a 19th century woman was supposed to behave. And as the opera Carmen grew in popularity, the character of Carmen—imbued by Bizet with the mystic and eroticism of gypsy culture—only fueled the Gypsy Mystique. While in historic gypsy culture, women filled traditional roles of mother and caretaker, Carmen is portrayed as a strong independent working woman who uses her sexuality as her power. It is important to note, however that she is not a prostitute. While independent, she also has a community: her tight-knit group of friends who look out for her. As portrayed in the story, Carmen is both working-class and exotic, and comes from a minority culture. Bizet portrayed her character through his opera score by combining mainstream, Romantic-era symphonic sounds with the exotic melodies he heard on the Paris streets and in nightclubs—popular and folk melodies—as he frequented the many shady haunts of bohemian and red light districts. In the nearly century and a half since Bizet’s controversial opera debuted, many have adapted the opera, updating elements to serve contemporary audiences. Of these, adaptations included a 1944 musical by Oscar Hammerstein, Carmen Jones, later adapted for film; a few additional film versions in the early 1980s; and MTV’s 2001 made-for-tv “hip-hopera” Carmen, starring a 19-year-old Beyoncé Knowles. The hip-hopera was an adaptation inspired by both Bizet’s and Hammerstein’s versions, featuring an entirely new hip-hop and R&B score by Kip Collins. In this version, Carmen is portrayed not so much as a rebel, and more of a girly-girl who dreams of being an actress and whose life centers on partying and boys. This simplification ends up depriving Carmen of some of her agency as a strong female character. At the time, Beyoncé was the strongest voice in Destiny’s Child, who had just released the song “Independent Women,” for the film soundtrack of Charlie’s Angels (2000). Although her portrayal of Carmen in the hip-hopera was perhaps two-dimensional, in real life Beyoncé’s professional persona more closely resembled Bizet’s or even Mérimée’s Carmen. Her song lyrics address themes of independence and feminism, and her performances highlight her sexuality. Beyoncé has also been exoticized by fans in part due to her mixed ethnic and socioeconomic background. Perhaps even Beyoncé’s portrayal of Carmen early in her career influenced her artistic sensibility toward cinematic storytelling through music, informing subsequent albums, concert performances, further film appearances, and most recently, a visual album. All have elements with clear contemporary parallels to opera as an art-form. In the last fifteen years, Beyoncé has gone on to produce many albums addressing themes that are personal to her (and are also in the opera Carmen) including race, social class, and feminism, particularly in her album B’Day (2006), her song “Single Ladies” (2010), and her opera-like “visual album” Lemonade (2016). Like the character Carmen, Beyoncé’s public persona seduces fans through her alluring voice, dance, and sexuality, as well as simultaneously portraying a strong, successful, fierce, independent woman who addresses issues of racial tensions, gender inequity, and social class divide through her immensely popular music.

CARMEN SYNOPSIS

Now that Queen B has a few decades of musical savvy and pop-stardom under her belt, perhaps she would consider revisiting Bizet’s masterpiece and creating a brand-new hip-hopera—one where Carmen’s emotional complexities and present-day struggles are brought to life afresh. If so, perhaps her 2016 single “Sorry” would serve as Carmen’s final aria to Don José.

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LISTEN UP! GENERAL QUESTIONS TO GUIDE YOUR LISTENING • What instruments are playing? • How fast is the music? Are there sudden changes in speed? Is the rhythm steady or unsteady? • Key/Mode: Is it major or minor? (Does it sound bright, happy, sad, urgent, dangerous?) • Dynamics/Volume: Is the music loud or soft? Are there sudden changes in volume (either in the voice or orchestra)? • What is the shape of the melodic line? Does the voice move smoothly or does it make frequent or erratic jumps? Do the vocal lines move noticeably downward or upward? • Does the type of voice singing (baritone, soprano, tenor, mezzo, etc.) have an effect on you as a listener? • Do the melodies end as you would expect or do they surprise you? • How does the music make you feel? What effect do the above factors have on you as a listener? • What is the orchestra doing in contrast to the voice? How do they interact? • What kinds of images, settings, or emotions come to mind? Does it remind you of anything you have experienced in your own life? • Do particularly emphatic notes (low, high, held, etc.) correspond to dramatic moments? • What type of character fits this music? Romantic? Comic? Serious? Etc.

The Habanera Carmen sings to a crowd of rowdy soldiers who have come to watch the women who work at the cigarette factory on their lunch break. Listen to the opening music in the orchestra. • How does the melody of Carmen’s opening line reflect her sly and elusive character? • In what ways does the music of the chorus contrast with Carmen’s? Who is in the crowd and how would they perceive her?

Listen Up!

The Seguidilla Carmen, imprisoned for starting a fight at the cigarette factory, sings to her captor, Don José, to regain her freedom. The Seguidilla uses another folk dance rhythm. This one is from the Castillian region of Spain. Listen for the characteristic accented second beat in the orchestral accompaniment. • Why would Bizet reference dance music while Carmen is captured? • How does she use the music against Don José?

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Listen Up!


The Toréador Aria The famous bullfighter, Escamillo, arrives and attempts to impress on the crowd and Carmen. “Songe en combatant qu’un oeil noir te regarde, et que l’amour t’attend…” (contemplate as you fight that a dark eye is watching you, and that love is waiting for you.) • How does the music help Escamillo command the attention of crowd? • How does Bizet reflect the concepts of danger and pleasure, love and death in the music?

Listen Up!

The Flower Aria Carmen mocks Don José when he is called back to the barracks by the bugle. José must go, but desperately tries to express his love. • Do you hear any repeated music in this aria? Why does Bizet choose to repeat or not repeat music? What other patterns or organization do you hear?

Listen Up!

• Listen to the orchestra when Don José sings the final words “Je t’aime!” (I love you!). How does the music underneath the voice affect the meaning of Don José’s words? Card Scene In this scene, Carmen realizes that both her and Don José’s fates are sealed by drawing the death card. • What makes the music inevitable or fatalistic?

Listen Up!

Micaëla’s Aria Micaela has come to search for Don José, now a part of Carmen’s band of smugglers, to tell him of his mother’s illness and persuade him to come home. The instrumentation helps to represent Micaëla’s different thoughts and feelings.

Listen Up!

CARMEN SYNOPSIS

• When do you hear brass, woodwinds, and strings and how does it correspond to the words and melody Micaela is singing at the time?

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RESOURCES

FROM OTHER OPERA COMPANIES

The Metropolitan Opera Guild

Calgary Opera

More from The Metropolitan Opera Guild

Metropolitan Opera

Pacific Opera Victoria

Opera Philadelphia

Manitoba Opera

Canadian Opera Company

BOOKS AND ARTICLES

Bizet: Carmen. (2016). Columbia.edu. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://www.columbia.edu/itc/music/opera/carmen/reception.html Bramesco, C. (2016, April 28). How Beyonce’s Forgotten Made-For-TV Hip Hopera Foreshadowed ‘Lemonade’ Retrieved September 08, 2016, from http://uproxx.com/music/carmen-a-hip-hopera-lemonade-beyonce/ Du Pré Cooper, M. (2016). Georges Bizet | French composer. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georges-Bizet Huizenga, T. (2007, September 22). Carmen on the Couch: Analyzing Bizet’s Bold Heroine. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2007/09/22/14347881/carmen-on-the-couch-analyzing-bizets-bold-heroine Jeffries, S. (2006). Stuart Jeffries meets ‘the Quentin Tarantino of opera’ Calixto Bieito. the Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/aug/16/classicalmusicandopera.edinburgh2006 Malafronte, J. (2016). SFOpera - Unraveling the Enigma of Carmen. Sfopera.com. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://sfopera.com/discover-opera/1516-season/carmen/program-articles/unraveling-the-enigma2/ Marien, C. (2016). Verismo in Italian Opera. Yourguidetoitaly.com. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://www.yourguidetoitaly.com/verismo-in-italian-opera.html Merimee, P. (1846). Carmen (L. Loyd, Trans.) [2013]. Retrieved September 8, 2016, from http://www.gutenberg.org/ files/2465/2465-h/2465-h.htm Perriam, C. (2005). Carmen: From Silent Film to MTV (A. Davies, Ed.). Retrieved September 8, 2016, from https://books. google.com/books?id=5v7SQRwVA18C&lpg=PP1&dq=Carmen:FromSilentFilmtoMTV&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false Swed, M. (2016). ‘Tacky, tawdry and tasteless’? A provocative opera director’s take on ‘Carmen’ is nothing of the sort. latimes.com. Retrieved 26 August 2016, from http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts

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NOTES TO PREPARE FOR THE OPERA You will see a full dress rehearsal – an insider’s look into the final moments of preparation before an opera premieres. The singers will be in full costume and makeup, the opera will be fully staged, and a full orchestra will accompany the singers, who may choose to “mark,” or not sing in full voice, in order to save their voices for the performances. A final dress rehearsal is often a complete run-through, but there is a chance the director or conductor will ask to repeat a scene or section of music. This is the last opportunity the performers have to rehearse with the orchestra before opening night, and they therefore need this valuable time to work. The following will help you better enjoy your experience of a night at the opera: • Arrive on time! Latecomers will be seated only at suitable breaks in the performance and often not until intermission. • Dress in what you are comfortable in so that you may enjoy the performance. For some, that means dressing up in a suit or gown, for others, jeans and a polo shirt fit the bill. Generally “dressy-casual” is what people wear. Live theater is usually a little more formal than a movie theater. Please do not take off your shoes or put your feet on the seat in front of you. • Respect your fellow opera lovers by not leaning forward in your seat so as to block the person’s view behind you, and by turning off (not on vibrate) cell phones and other electronic devices that could make noise during the performance. Lit screens are also very distracting to your neighbors, so please keep your phone out of sight until the house lights come up. • Taking photos or making audio or video recordings is strictly forbidden. • Do not chew gum, eat, drink, or talk while the rehearsal is in session. If you must visit the restroom during the performance, please exit quickly and quietly. • At the very beginning of the opera, the concertmaster of the orchestra will ask the oboist to play the note “A.” You will hear all the other musicians in the orchestra tune their instruments to match the oboe’s “A.” • After all the instruments are tuned, the conductor will arrive. Be sure to applaud! • Feel free to applaud or shout Bravo at the end of an aria or chorus piece if you liked it. The end of a piece can be identified by a pause in the music. Singers love an appreciative audience! • It’s OK to laugh when something is funny! • When translating songs and poetry in particular, much can be lost due to a change in rhythm, inflection and rhyme of words. For this reason, opera is usually performed in its original language. In order to help audiences enjoy the music and follow every twist and turn of the plot, English supertitles are projected. • Listen for subtleties in the music. The tempo, volume, and complexity of the music and singing depict the feelings or actions of the characters. Also, notice repeated words or phrases; they are usually significant.

HAVE FUN AND ENJOY THE OPERA!

SO YOUNG PARK as QUEEN OF THE NIGHT Photo: Eric Antoniou. Boston Opera House

• Sit back, relax and let the action on stage pull you in. As an audience member, you are essential to the art form of opera—without you, there is no show!

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Carmen Student Study Guide  

A Study Guide to BLO's 2016/17 season production of Bizet's Carmen.

Carmen Student Study Guide  

A Study Guide to BLO's 2016/17 season production of Bizet's Carmen.

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