Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Carmen. It was last on stage 19 October—30 November 2015 as part of the Autumn 2015/16 season.
The young soldier Don José intends to marry Micaëla, a girl from his home village. But when he meets the sensual and high-spirited Carmen, he sacrifices everything to be with her.
Read more… (Contains spoilers)
Carmen is the most popular work from French composer Georges Bizet. For this, his 17th and last opera, Bizet took inspiration from the popular novella by Prosper Mérimée, which had enticed French readers with exotic tales of Spain. Its heady combination of passion, sensuality and violence initially proved too much for the stage and the opera was a critical failure on its premiere in 1875. Bizet died shortly after, and never learned of the spectacular success Carmen would achieve. Popular around the world, the opera has been performed more than five hundred times at Covent Garden alone.
The opera contains many much-loved numbers, such as Carmen’s seductive Habanera and Escamillo’s rousing Toreador Song, in which he celebrates the thrill of the bullfight. In Francesca Zambello’s 2006 production for The Royal Opera, richly coloured designs by Tanya McCallin capture the sultry heat of the Spanish sun, while ranks of soldiers, crowds of peasants, gypsies and bullfighters bring 19th-century Seville to life.
News and features
15 March 2017
From traditional Japanese folk music to mysterious Spanish popular songs, opera has long been drawing on national music to explore 'exotic' cultures and celebrate national traditions.
30 January 2017
From devils and rogues, to lovers and rulers – who says tenors have to have all the fun?
19 December 2016
Carmen isn’t the only sensual starring mezzo role – we round up some of our favourites, from Donizetti to Birtwistle.
13 June 2016
With distinctive warm tones and a wide vocal range, Verdi realized the mezzo's potential - with exciting consequences.
19 November 2015
Composers have long experimented with different ways of giving a sense of community, often using the chorus to highly dramatic effect.
11 November 2015
Italian tenor to replace Jonas Kaufmann due to illness.
Carmen ([kaʁmɛn]; [ˈkarmen]) is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875 and was not well received, largely due to its breaking of convention and controversial main characters, which shocked and scandalized its first audiences. Bizet died suddenly after the 33rd performance, and therefore was unaware of its outstanding success in Vienna later that year, or that it would win enduring international acclaim within the next ten years. Carmen has since become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon; the "Habanera" from act 1 and the "Toreador Song" from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias. The opera is written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue. It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial. After the premiere, most reviews were critical, and the French public was generally indifferent. Carmen initially gained its reputation through a series of productions outside France, and was not revived in Paris until 1883; thereafter it rapidly acquired celebrity at home and abroad. Later commentators have asserted that Carmen forms the bridge between the tradition of opéra comique and the realism or verismo that characterised late 19th-century Italian opera. The music of Carmen has since been widely acclaimed for brilliance of melody, harmony, atmosphere, and orchestration, and for the skill with which Bizet musically represented the emotions and suffering of his characters. After the composer's death, the score was subject to significant amendment, including the introduction of recitative in place of the original dialogue; there is no standard edition of the opera, and different views exist as to what versions best express Bizet's intentions. The opera has been recorded many times since the first acoustical recording in 1908, and the story has been the subject of many screen and stage adaptations.