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Bizet's Carmen

Olga Borodina (Carmen). Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Olga Borodina (Carmen) Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Live from the Met

Saturday 23 February 2008 18:30-22:15 (Radio 3)

One of the most popular and familiar operas today, Carmen was among the first in the 1870s to go against the trend of glorifying heroes and heroines. Bizet's feisty and independently minded gypsy seductress caused consternation amongst critics of the time. Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina brings a sultry vocalism to the title role, opposite Marcelo Alvarez in his Met role debut as Don Jose, the proud soldier destroyed by his fascination with the alluring Carmen.

This evening's broadcast will include the legendary Met Opera Quiz (click on the link for information on how to send in your questions) with soprano Deborah Voigt as Quiz Master, and live interviews with the cast backstage. Presented from New York by Margaret Juntwait with Ira Siff as guest commentator.  In addition, legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, herself a famous Carmen, will join  Margaret Juntwait in the radio booth to discuss the role and reminisce about it.


3 hours 45 minutes


Carmen.......... Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano)
Don Jose........ Marcelo Alvarez (tenor)
Escamillo........ Lucio Gallo (baritone)
Micaela.......... Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano)
Frasquita....... .Rachelle Durkin (soprano)
Mercedes...... .Edyta Kulczak (mezzo-soprano)
Remendado... .Jean-Paul Fouchecourt (tenor)
Dancairo........John Hancock (baritone)
Zuniga......... Jeffrey Wells (bass)

Emmanuel Villaume (conductor)
Orchestra and Chorus of New York Metropolitan Opera


Seville, around 1830. In a public square in front of a tobacco factory, soldiers watch the passers-by. Among them is Micaela, a peasant girl, who is looking for an officer named Don Jose. Morales, the corporal, tells her that he will arrive soon with the changing of the guard. The soldiers try to flirt with Micaela, but she runs away. The relief guard approaches, headed by Lieutenant Zuniga, and Jose learns from Morales that a girl has been looking for him. When the factory bell rings, the men of Seville gather to watch the female workers return from their lunch break-especially their favorite, the gypsy Carmen. She tells her admirers that love obeys no rules ("L'amour est un oiseau rebelle"). Only one man pays no attention to her: Don Jose. Coquettishly, Carmen throws a flower at him, and the girls go back into the factory. Jose picks up the flower. Micaela returns, bringing a letter-and a kiss-from Jose's mother (Duet: "Parle-moi de ma mere"). When he starts to read the letter, Micaela leaves him alone. He is about to throw away the flower when a fight erupts inside the factory between Carmen and another girl. Zuniga sends Jose to retrieve the gypsy. Carmen refuses to answer Zuniga's questions, and Jose is ordered to take her to prison. Left alone with him, she seduces him with visions of a rendezvous at Lillas Pastia's tavern ("Pres des remparts de Seville"). Mesmerized, Jose agrees to let her escape. As they leave for prison, Carmen slips away and Don Jose is arrested.

Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercedes entertain the guests at Lillas Pastia's tavern ("Les tringles des sistres tintaient"). Zuniga tells Carmen that Jose has just been released from prison. The bullfighter Escamillo enters and boasts about the pleasures of his profession, in particular those relating to the ladies ("Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre"). He flirts with Carmen, but she coyly puts him off. When the tavern guests leave with Escamillo, the smugglers Dancaire and Remendado explain their latest schemes to the women (Quintet: "Nous avons en tete une affaire"). Frasquita and Mercedes are willing to help, but Carmen refuses to join them because she is in love. Jose is heard singing in the distance, and the smugglers withdraw. Carmen arouses Jose's jealousy by mentioning that she has been dancing with Zuniga. He declares his love, but when bugles are heard, he says he must return to the barracks. Carmen mocks him, claiming that he doesn't love her. To prove her wrong, he shows her the flower she threw at him and confesses how its fading scent sustained his love during the weeks in prison ("La fleur que tu m'avais jetee"). She is unimpressed: if he really loved her, he would desert the army and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains. Jose refuses, and Carmen tells him to leave. Zuniga bursts in, and in a jealous rage Jose draws his sword. The smugglers return and disarm Zuniga. Jose now has no choice but to desert and join them.

The smugglers take a rest at their mountain hideaway. Carmen and Jose quarrel. She admits that her love is fading and advises him to return to live with his mother. When the women turn cards to tell their fortunes, Frasquita and Mercedes foresee love and fortune for themselves, but Carmen's cards spell death-for her and for Jose ("En vain pour eviter les reponses ameres"). As the smugglers set off for the city, a frightened Micaela appears ("Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante"). A shot rings out, and she hides. Jose has fired at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo. He tells Jose that he has come to find Carmen and mentions her former lover, a soldier who deserted to be with her. Jose identifies himself, and the two men fight. The returning smugglers separate them, and Escamillo invites everyone, Carmen in particular, to his next bullfight in Seville. Escamillo leaves, and Micaela emerges. She begs Jose to return home. He agrees only when he learns that his mother is dying. Assuring Carmen that they will meet again, he leaves with Micaela.

Seville. The crowd cheers the bullfighters as they enter the arena. Carmen arrives on Escamillo's arm, and Frasquita and Mercedes warn her that Jose is present in the crowd. She tells them that she is not afraid and waits while a crowd enters the arena. Jose appears and begs Carmen to forget the past and start a new life with him, but she calmly tells him that their affair is over (Duet: "C'est toi!-C'est moi!") and moves towards the entrance. When Jose tries to block her way, she finally loses her temper and throws the ring that Jose gave her at his feet. Jose stabs her to death and surrenders to the gathering crowd.

©Metropolitan Opera


Carmen ...... Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano)
Don Jose ...... Marcelo Alvarez (tenor)
Escamillo ...... Lucio Gallo (baritone)
Micaela ...... Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano)
Frasquita ...... Rachelle Durkin (soprano)
Mercedes ...... Edyta Kulczak (mezzo-soprano)
Remendado ...... Juan-Paul Fouchecourt (tenor)
Dancairo ...... John Hancock (baritone)
Zuniga ...... Jeffrey Wells (bass)
Chorus and Orchestra of New York Metropolitan Opera
Emmanuel Villaume (conductor)

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