Director's Notes

by Brenna Corner, stage director for Carmen

There is something about Carmen that continually attracts audiences. Perhaps it is the widely recognized melodic lines or the rousing orchestral arrangements? Or maybe it is the universal themes within the story?

For me, it is the characters. It is the story of a young woman in a world at war, driven by her desire for freedom, and a young man fighting his way through that world, driven by his desire for love. It is the story of hearing, but not listening. The story of Carmen is of communication between people.

The titular character of one of the most famous operas in history is a fascinating character. Carmen remains uniquely steadfast throughout the entire piece to the philosophy of life as expressed in her opening aria. Her honesty and self-awareness are among the most extraordinary elements of any character in opera. She is, in many ways, what we would call a modern woman in a world that has not caught up.

Unlike Carmen, Don José is plagued throughout the story.  He is constantly changing and trying to adapt to the world, but is always one step behind. He tries to be a good soldier, lover, smuggler and son—yet with each reiteration of himself, he degenerates and collides with the world around him. Carmen’s determination and independence do not fit within the world he understands. José is excited by her fierce independence, yet it is this very strength that comes into conflict with his ideals. He fights against her, trying to force her to conform to his view of love; and by force, he takes her voice, her freedom and her life.

They are two immensely complicated characters, flawed and imperfect, and so real and human, each struggling to survive and thrive in a world not attuned to them. Through Mérimée’s novella, Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto, and Bizet’s music, Carmen manifests a truth about humanity brilliantly captured.

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