Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 6:30 pm
(From the 2009-2010 Season)
Runtime: 3 hours
One of opera’s most popular works returns to the Met in a new production by Olivier Award-winning director Richard Eyre. “Carmen is about sex, violence, and racism—and its corollary: freedom,” Eyre says of Bizet’s masterpiece. Elīna Garanča, above, takes on the title heroine for the first time at the Met, opposite Roberto Alagna as the jealous Don José and Mariusz Kwiecien as Escamillo. Up-and-coming Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin makes his Met debut on the podium.
By a cigarette factory in Seville, soldiers watch the passers-by. The peasant girl Micaëla asks for the corporal Don José, then leaves again. Lieutenant Zuniga arrives with José and the relief guard. The men gather to watch the female factory workers—especially the gypsy Carmen, who tells her admirers that love is free and obeys no rules. Only José pays no attention to her. Carmen throws a flower at him, and the girls go back to work. José hides the flower when Micaëla returns with a letter from his mother, who lives in the country. As José begins to read the letter, Micaëla leaves. A fight erupts inside the factory between Carmen and another girl, and Zuniga sends José to retrieve the gypsy. Carmen refuses to answer any questions, and José is ordered to take her to prison. Left alone with him, she entices José with suggestions of a rendezvous that night and he agrees to let her escape. As they leave for prison, Carmen slips away. Don José is arrested.
At Lillas Pastia’s tavern, Carmen waits for José, who has just been released. The bullfighter Escamillo enters and flirts with her, but she tells him that she is involved with someone else. The smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado explain their latest scheme. Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercédès are willing to help, but Carmen refuses because she is in love. José approaches. Alone with him, Carmen arouses his jealousy by telling him how she danced for Zuniga. José declares his love, but says he must return to the barracks. When Carmen mocks him, José shows her the flower she threw at him and confesses how it helped him get through the weeks in prison. She is unimpressed: if he really loved her, he would desert the army and join her to live in the mountains. José refuses, and Carmen tells him to leave. Zuniga bursts in, and in a jealous rage José fights him. The smugglers return and disarm Zuniga. José has no choice but to join them.
Carmen and José quarrel in the smugglers’ mountain hideaway. She admits that her love is fading. When Frasquita and Mercédès turn the cards to tell their fortunes, they foresee death for Carmen—and for José. Micaëla appears. Frightened, she hides when a shot rings out. José has fired at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo. The two men fight. The smugglers separate them, and Escamillo invites everyone to his next bullfight. When he has left, Micaëla emerges and begs José to return home. He agrees when he learns that his mother is dying, but before he leaves he warns Carmen that they will meet again.
Back in Seville, the crowd cheers the bullfighters on their way to the arena. Carmen arrives on Escamillo’s arm, and Frasquita and Mercédès warn her that José is nearby. Unafraid, she waits outside the entrance as the crowds enter the arena. José appears and begs Carmen to start a new life with him. She calmly tells him that their affair is over: she was born free and free she will die. José keeps trying to win her back and she finally loses her temper, throwing his ring at his feet. José stabs her to death, then surrenders to the gathering crowd