Performed in the original in French with Czech and English surtitles
Premiere on 18th March 2016, Janacek Theatre
Freedom in love or death.
A thin novel by the French writer Prosper Merimée about Don José, whose foolish passion for a wild Gypsy girl forces him to leave the army and become a smuggler and murderer, served as the base for one of the most famous opera. The success won its author, the French composer Georges Bizet, international fame. Bizet had never been in Spain but he loved exotic motives and the atmosphere of the story fascinated him. In his music, he masterly connected Spanish motives and French charm, giving the operatic world several immortal hits. Carmen directed by Tomáš Pilař returns more to the original story and reveals further layers of individual characters, who are mainly people coming from completely different environments. It is not only Carmen’s volatile and unchained love with which the jealous José cannot cope. It is the conflict of two worlds – the organized and tidy world of José and Micaëla, made up for preconcieved rules, and the world of gypsies and smugglers living from one day to another, without any law and governed by their impulses. These worlds suddenly intersect and the differences creates tension and conflict leading to the complete destruction of both the worlds. Nobody is able to prevent the inevitable because nobody is willing, or able, to give in.
While guarding a tobacco factory in Seville, soldiers are with great interest watching people bustling about just outside of the front gates. Micaëla, a very alluring young woman from the country, appears, looking for one of the soldiers – the head guard, Don Jose. There is a changing of the guard. Women workers emerge from the factory, amongst them the beautiful gypsy Carmen. Turning done romantic proposals from other men, she provocatively throws a flower to Don Jose, who is completely captivated by her incredible beauty. Meanwhile, Micaëla approaches with a message from his mother. Suddenly, a shriek is heard coming from inside of the factory. In the heat of argument, Carmen has injured a fellow worker and is to be taken to prison. At first unwavering, Don Jose finally helps her to escape, an action for which he himself is then incarcerated.
Two months pass. Entertainment at the Lilas Pastia is in full swing. Carmen is dancing and flirting with Lieutenant Zuniga. Making his entrance, the celebrated toreador Escamillo can hardly take his eyes off her. Nevertheless, Carmen turns them all down, not even wanting to go on an journey with her smuggler friends. The reason for this is that that very day, Don Jose is to be released from prison, where he had been serving a sentence for allowing Carmen to escape. Don Jose does indeed arrive. Carmen tries to persuade him to leave the military and run away with her into the mountains to live amongst the smugglers. He refuses; however, at that very moment, Zuniga returns and the jealous Don Jose attacks him. The conflict is halted by the smugglers, leaving Jose with little choice but to go with them.
In their hideout in the mountains, the smugglers are resting before another journey. The capricious Carmen has had enough of Don Jose, who sadly reminisces about his elderly mother. The gypsy women read each others fortunes from cards, which promise them love and wealth. For Carmen, however, the sign of death is all that is revealed to her. Micaëla arrives. Before she can even manage to say a word to Jose, Escamillo arrives looking for Carmen so that he might invite her to an upcoming bullfight. At the very last moment, a tragic end of a duel between Escamilla and Jose is prevented by Carmen. The smugglers find Micaëla hiding. When she tells Jose that his mother is dying, he decides to leave with her.
All of Seville is preparing for the bullfights. Carmen’s heart now belongs exclusively to the celebrated Escamillo, for whom she came to the fights. Her friends Mercédès and Frasquita warn her that they saw Don Jose in the crowd, but Carmen no longer wants to hide and goes to meet him. Jose in vain reminds her of his love and begs her to leave with him; she provocatively informs him of her new love. As she goes to return to the arena where the crowds are applauding and cheering on Escamillo, Jose stabs her.