Bizet's Carmen is packed full of some of the best known and hummable tunes in the Classical canon, including the instantly recognizable 'Toreador's Song' and 'Habanera'. So it's easy to forget that the score was declared unplayable, and the story too scandalous and debauched for polite society at its 1875 premiere.
What upset the prim Parisians was that the low-life characters, including factory workers, gypsies and soldiers, are depicted without rose-tinted romanticism, the slaves of their torrid passions. Jealousy, crime and murder dominate in a Spanish setting that the French preferred to think of as perfumed and exotic.
But posterity gave Bizet the last laugh and star singers have always been attracted to the roles, including Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili, whose Carmen has become a bit of a party piece, and Austrian tenor Nikolai Schukoff, who makes his Met debut as Carmen's murderous lover, Don José
Carmen.....Anita Rachvelishvili (mezzo-soprano)
Don Jose.....Nikolai Schukoff (tenor)
Micaela.....Ekaterina Scherbachenko (soprano)
Escamillo.....Ildar Abdrazakov (baritone)
Chorus and Orchestra of The Metroplitan Opera, New York
Michele Mariotti, conductor.