Programme Guide

For many, it was the operatic event of the 2011/2012 season: Bizet’s Carmen at the Salzburg Easter Festival with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle. In a highly anticipated debut, Magdalena Kožená sang the role of Carmen for the first time in a staged performance. At her side, an outstanding tenor of the younger generation, Jonas Kaufmann, as Don José. After the festival, the musicians presented their interpretation to audiences in both the Philharmonie in Berlin and in the Digital Concert Hall.

Carmen is one of the most fascinating figures in the operatic repertoire: sometimes erotic, sometimes cool, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes calculating – a factory worker and smuggler, she reigns like a queen over her people with a magical aura. A heroine like this was unacceptable to audiences in Bizet’s time. Similarly, the plot was too direct, too drastic and appeared un-operatic. But it is exactly these characteristics that ensure the opera’s enduring popularity.

The music comes across as authentic as the characters. Even if its gorgeous melodies and colourful flair appeal to almost everyone, Bizet never tries to curry favour with audiences. The score was probably best characterised by Friedrich Nietzsche: “This music seems to me to be perfect. It [...] is evil, subtly fatalistic; at the same time it remains popular [...]. Have more painful, tragic accents ever been heard on the stage? And how are they obtained? Without grimace! Without counterfeit coinage! Without the imposture of the grand style!”

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