Author: Georges Bizet
(2009/2010 Metropolitan Opera; Richard Eyre staging)
I was introduced to Carmen at a young age, and immediately fell in love with the bombastic score. All the sex and seduction stuff, however, went completely over my head. I understood what was happening, but I had no context for the motivations of the characters. I didn’t get what would drive Carmen to be a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of person. I didn’t understand the dark complications that would drive José to kill the woman he loves in order to keep her. Now that I’m adult, I get that Carmen isn’t really about love at all. It’s about manipulation and obsession.
Not that that’s a bad thing. I watched this staging of Carmen the way I usually do, on PBS’s airing of the New York Met’s productions. Recently was their Carmen, and this is the first time since I was young that I’ve watched the opera in its entirety. I’ve listened to the music often. I took a singing class and learned ‘the Habanera.’ (It’s really hard, and doesn’t let you breathe.) Anyway, watching Carmen with a little more worldly understanding, really highlighted for me just how much I didn’t get when I was a kid. It was also more fun, because I can relate a little more. I’ve met people who do really intense relationships for two months, then move on. I relate to the gypsies’ desire for absolute freedom. Plus, I now I have the patience to really appreciate the slower songs, like Micaela’s contemplative aria in the second act. I couldn’t when I was younger.
This production isn’t definitive in any way, but it gets a lot of things right. You kind of know what you’re getting into when you decide to watch Carmen, and I think this production had the perfect energy.