Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Carmen. It was last on stage 16 December 2013—9 January 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.
Don José is a young soldier in the army in Seville. He intends to marry Micaëla, a girl from his home village, but when he meets the sensual and high-spirited Carmen, his head is soon turned…
Carmen was based on a popular novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée, which enticed French readers with exotic tales of Spain. Its heady combination of passion, sensuality and violence initially proved too much for the stage and Georges Bizet’s opera was a critical failure on its premiere in 1875. Bizet died shortly after, never learning of the spectacular success Carmen would achieve – it has been staged over 500 times at Covent Garden alone.
Carmen contains many well-loved numbers, such as Carmen’s seductive Habanera and Escamillo’s rousing Toreador’s song, in which he celebrates the thrill of the bullfight. Richly coloured designs capture the sultry heat of the Spanish sun, while ranks of soldiers, crowds of peasants, gypsies and bullfighters bring 19th-century Seville alive. This combination of memorable music, vivid setting and dramatic story have made Carmen one of the most popular operas in the world.
News and features
23 April 2014
Literature has long provided composers with inspiration.
9 January 2014
Mozart's famous anti-hero isn't opera's only irresistible charmer.
17 December 2013
What did you think of Francesca Zambello's production of Bizet's classic opera?
12 December 2013
Irish mezzo-soprano replaces Nadezhda Karyazina due to illness.
11 December 2013
The British baritone on blockbuster opera and why he chose the operatic path.
9 December 2013
A quick guide to Bizet's fiery masterpiece.
Carmen is an opera in four acts by the 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 at first was not particularly successful. Its initial run extended to 36 performances, before the conclusion of which Bizet died suddenly, and thus knew nothing of the opera's later celebrity.The opera, written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue, 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, and continues to be one of the most frequently performed operas; the "Toreador song" from act 2 is among the best known of all operatic arias. 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 been widely acclaimed for its 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.