1 February – 24 February 2023 (9 Performances)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée
Conductor, Kerem Hasan (Olivia Clarke, 22 Feb)
Director, Calixto Bieito
Revival Director, Jamie Manton
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The English National Opera’s (ENO) spring season opens this February with the return of Calixto Bieito’s fiery Carmen to the London Coliseum. Its third revival since it was first staged in 2012, this is one of the most popular operas ever written, featuring Bizet’s instantly recognisable searing score.
A tale of love, obsession and jealousy, soldier Don José finds himself unable to resist cigarette worker Carmen’s charm, even when he is supposed to be guarding her prison cell. The tumultuous affair that begins between the pair comes to an abrupt halt when Carmen turns her attention to bullfighter Escamillo. Don José’s love soon turns to jealousy and anger.
Praised as ‘a cogent, gripping piece of work’ (The Guardian), director Calixto Bieito’s production effortlessly transports the story to an early 1970s Spanish Colony, near the end of dictator Francisco Franco’s regime.
Bieito remains one of the world’s most sought after opera directors and is particularly well known for his radical reinterpretations of classic operas and plays. He has previously directed ENO productions of Don Giovanni (2001), A Masked Ball (2002), Fidelio (2013), and The Force of Destiny (2015).
One of the world’s most famous operas, Bizet’s Spanish-inflected score bursts with recognisable melodies like Carmen’s seductive ‘Habanera’ and Escamillo’s rousing ‘Toreador Song’. With music inspired by folksongs and Flamenco music, its original premier in 1875 received a lukewarm reception and Bizet died only a few months later, never seeing the success his work would garner.
After his success in Così fan tutte during the ENO’s 2021/22 Season, leading the award-winning ENO Orchestra in this iconic score is British Conductor Kerem Hasan. Hasan’s previous engagements include conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and recent operatic engagements include Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne and La forza del destino at Welsh National Opera. Conducting the Wednesday 22 February performance is British Irish Conductor and ENO Mackerras Fellow Olivia Clarke.
Jamie Manton, the revival director, previously directed at the ENO The Day After (2017), the Olivier nominated production of Paul Bunyan (2018 and 2019), and more recently his first main stage production for the ENO, the Olivier Award nominated The Cunning Little Vixen (2022).
Performing the role of Carmen, making her ENO debut is Italian-American mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson. Costa-Jackson is an alumni of the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. The role of Carmen is fast becoming her specialty having performed the role at San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Virginia Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival.
After ‘stealing the show’ (Opera Now) during his ‘excellent’ (Daily Express) ENO debut as Don José in 2020’s Carmen, American tenor Sean Panikkar is reprising his role. He is making a welcome return to the company following his previous performance in the role of Gandhi during the ENO’s 2021 revival of Satyagraha.
Panamanian-American Nmon Ford is bringing his ‘rich and supple’ (The Hollywood Reporter) baritone to the role of bullfighter Escamillo. He is returning to the ENO following his company debut as Crown in 2018’s Porgy and Bess.
The multi-award winning British soprano Gemma Summerfield is making her ENO debut performing the role of Micaëla. During her career, Summerfield has performed a wide range of repertoire. Her recent highlights include appearances at Staatsoper Hamburg, Opéra National du Rhin, and Scottish Opera.
Returning to the ENO is British bass-baritone Keel Watson who reprises his role of Zuniga following the 2020 revival of Carmen. Watson will make another return to the ENO for his second engagement of the season to repside the role of Aye in Akhnaten in March 2023.
Award-winning ENO Harewood Artist and New Zealand born Samoan baritone Benson Wilson is performing the role of Moralès. Wilson will be performing his second engagement of the season in the role of Horemhab in Akhnaten. The 2021/22 Season saw him make his ENO main stage debut as Schaunard in La bohème and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte.
In the role of Frasquita is Australian soprano and ENO Harewood Artist Alexandra Oomens; the role will be performed by soprano Ellie Laugharne on 9 and 11 February. Making her ENO debut and singing the role of Mercédès is Irish mezzo-soprano Niamh O’Sullivan. Joining her on stage and reprising his role of Dancairo is former Harewood Artist and British baritone Matthew Durkan, and in the role of Remendado is current Harewood Artist and South African tenor Innocent Masuku.
Completing the cast is the award-winning ENO Chorus and joining them on stage is over twenty children performing for their first time from two local primary schools to form the children’s chorus. This is a part of the ongoing ENO Engage partnership with St Joseph’s Catholic School and Wendell Park Primary School involving learning and participation activity.
Alfons Flores is the Set Designer, long-time Calixto collaborator Mercè Paloma is the Costume Designer, Bruno Poet is the Lighting Designer, Martin Doone is the Revival Lighting Designer, and the translation is by Christopher Cowell.
Carmen opens on Wednesday 1 February for 9 performances: Feb 1, 9, 14, 17, 20, 22, 24 at 19.30. Feb 4, 11 at 18.30.
British Sign Language performance: Monday 20 February, 19.30
Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee*)
*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings.
The suggested age guidance for Carmen is 12+. This production contains some content which may not be suitable for young audiences.
Co-production with Den Norske Opera and Ballet.