A new production of Bizet's Carmen, directed by Richard Eyre and starring El?na Garan?a in the title role and Roberto Alagna as Don José, premieres at a New Year's Eve gala performance. Garan?a makes her Met role debut as the gypsy femme fatale, reuniting with Alagna following their recent success in these parts at London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Acclaimed young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin makes his Met debut leading a cast that includes Barbara Frittoli as Micaëla and Mariusz Kwiecien in his Met role debut as Escamillo. Eyre makes his Met debut with the new production, as does set and costume designer Rob Howell. Peter Mumford designs the lighting, and Christopher Wheeldon creates the choreography for the new staging. Performances run through May 1, with later casts featuring Olga Borodina and Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, the latter for the first time in her stage career. Maija Kovalevska reprises her Micaëla, joined by Brandon Jovanovich in his Met debut and Jonas Kaufmann in his company role debut as Don José. Teddy Tahu Rhodes sings his first Escamillo with the company, and Alain Altinoglu makes his Met debut as conductor.
Richard Eyre, the renowned British director of theater and film, explores the grand scale of Carmen and the power of her desires in his new production. "Her sexuality is a lifeforce, it's a defining force," he explains. "Carmen is about sex, violence, and racism-and its corollary: freedom."
As for her portrayal of the free spirited gypsy, El?na Garan?a says, "You don't get to develop productions of Carmen from scratch too often. Carmen is defined by her unwillingness to settle. She is constantly searching and never satisfied. It may be sex or, more broadly, approval by men. It could also just be a zest for life, and in that she is uncompromising."
The January 16 matinee performance of Carmen will be transmitted to more than 1,000 movie theaters in 42 countries as part of The Met: Live in HD series, with soprano Renée Fleming as host.
About the performers
El?na Garan?a makes her Met role debut as Carmen. Garan?a made her company debut in 2008 as Rosina in IL Barbiere di Siviglia and returned the following season as Angelina in La Cenerentola, which was transmitted live in HD. Her La Cenerentola performance will be released on DVD in early 2010 on the DG label. Earlier this year, Garan?a performed the title role of Carmen at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London (opposite Roberto Alagna) and the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. In 2010, Garan?a brings her Carmen to the Vienna State Opera and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Garan?a, who received the 2006 European Culture Prize at the Dresden State Opera, is also the recipient of this year's Vocalist of the Year award from Musical America. She has recently performed the role of Charlotte in Massenet´s Werther in Baden-Baden and again at the Vienna State Opera. She also sang Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.
Barbara Frittoli returns as Micaëla, the role of her 1995 Met debut. The soprano, a native of Milan, most recently appeared here as Donna Elvira in the Met's 2009 revival of Don Giovanni. Frittoli's Met repertoire includes the title role of Suor Angelica in the 2007 new production of Il Trittico (shown live in HD), Mimì in La Bohème, Desdemona in Otello, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and the title role of Luisa Miller. Highlights of her upcoming engagements include the Verdi Requiem with Antonio Pappano at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Così fan tutte in Valencia, Le Nozze di Figaro in Madrid, Paris, and Munich, and Carmen and Don Giovanni at the Zurich Opera.
French tenor Roberto Alagna first sang the role of Don José at the Met in 2000. Last season, Alagna appeared as Ruggero in a new production of La Rondine, as well as both Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Pagliacci in the same performance. Since making his 1996 Met debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème, Alagna's Met repertoire has grown to include Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore, the Duke in Rigoletto, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette (shown live in HD), the title roles of both Faust and Werther, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Radamès in Aida. In 2010, Alagna will appear in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, perform a concert tour in France, and appear in Manon at the Vienna State Opera.
Mariusz Kwiecien makes his Met role debut as Escamillo. In the 2008-09 season, the Polish baritone appeared as Marcello in La Bohème and as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, which was shown live in HD. Kwiecien, a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made his Met debut in 1999 as Kuligin in Kát'a Kabanová. His company repertoire also includes Haly in L'Italiana in Algeri, Silvio in Pagliacci, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Dr. Malatesta in the 2006 new production of Don Pasquale. Kwiecien's other engagements this season include a pair of Mozart roles: Count Almaviva at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Bavarian State Opera, and Don Giovanni for the Bavarian State Opera. He also performs two bel canto roles at the Vienna State Opera, appearing as Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore and Riccardo in I Puritani.
Olga Borodina first sang Carmen at the Met in 2000, and returned to the role in 2004 and 2008. Earlier this season, the Russian mezzo-soprano performed Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust. Last season, she appeared here as Laura in La Gioconda and the Princess di Bouillon in Adriana Lecouvreur. In September of 2008, she was the mezzo-soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem, conducted by James Levine, which the Met presented in memory of Luciano Pavarotti. Borodina made her Met debut as Marina in Boris Godunov in 1997 and starred in Samson et Dalila on the opening night of the 1998-99 season. Her company repertoire includes Amneris in Aida, Paulina in The Queen of Spades, Isabella in L'Italiana in Algeri, the title role in La Cenerentola, and Eboli in Don Carlo. She has also appeared three times in concert with Music Director James Levine and the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, singing Ravel's Schéhérazade, Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre, and Wolf's Kennst du das Land.
Angela Gheorghiu sings the title role of Carmen in her debut stage performance of the role on April 28, 2010. Also this season, the Romanian soprano reprises her acclaimed portrayal of Violetta in La Traviata. Last season, Gheorghiu took on the role of Magda in a new production of La Rondine, which was shown live in HD. Gheorghiu made her 1993 Met debut as Mimì in La Bohème. Her Met repertoire now includes Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Liù in Turandot, Marguerite in Faust, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Micaela in Franco Zeffirelli's new production of Carmen (1996), and Act II of Tosca, the title role, in the season opening gala in 2005.
Brandon Jovanovich makes his Met debut as Don José. The American tenor, winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award, has previously performed Don José at the Washington National Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Flemish Opera, and the Palm Beach Opera. Also this season, Jovanovich will sing Luigi in Il Tabarro (San Francisco Opera), Boris in Kát'a Kabanová (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos (Boston Lyric Opera), Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Dallas Opera), and Števa in a new production of Jen?fa (Bavarian State Opera).
Jonas Kaufmann makes his Met role debut as Don José, and later in the season adds another role to his repertoire with the company, Cavaradossi in Tosca. The German tenor made his Met debut in 2006 as Alfredo in La Traviata and has since performed Tamino in Die Zauberflöte here. Elsewhere this season, Kaufmann sings two title roles-Don Carlo at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Werther in a new production at the Paris Opera. Later in 2010, Kaufmann will perform Don José and Cavaradossi at the Bavarian State Opera.
Winner of Plácido Domingo's Operalia World Opera Competition in 2006, Maija Kovalevska made her Met debut that same year as Mimì. Kovalevska followed with her acclaimed performance as Euridice in the 2007 new production of Orfeo ed Euridice directed by Mark Morris. In 2008, The Latvian soprano returned to the Met as Micaëla in Carmen and again as Mimì. Kovalevska has also recently appeared as Mimì with San Francisco Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, and at the Torre del Lago Festival.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes makes his Met role debut as Escamillo. The New Zealand baritone made his Met debut in the 2008 new production of Peter Grimes, which was seen live in HD and is now available on DVD. Rhodes recently performed Antony in Antony and Cleopatra (New York City Opera), the title role in Billy Budd (Opera Australia, Santa Fe Opera), Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (Theater an der Wien), and Lescaut in Manon Lescaut (Opera Australia). Later this season, Rhodes will perform Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Washington National Opera.
Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin holds a range of prominent musical posts, including artistic director and principal conductor of Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain and, most recently, music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Nézet-Séguin is also principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He appears frequently with international orchestras and opera companies; this season marks his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic. His recent opera performances include Madama Butterfly (Montreal Opera), Roméo et Juliette (Salzburg Festival), and The Makropoulos Case (Netherlands Opera).
Alain Altinoglu also makes his debut on the Met podium with Carmen. A native of Paris, Altinoglu is the principal guest conductor of the National Orchestra of Montpellier and is known for his conducting of the French operatic repertoire, including Roméo et Juliette (Vienna State Opera), La Voix Humaine (Toulouse), Mireille (Orange Festival), Orphée aux Enfers (Aix-en-Provence Festival), and Fiesque (Montpellier Festival). Also this season, Altinoglu conducts Faust at the Berlin State Opera and Salome at the Paris Opera.
About the production team
With more than 30 years of experience, Richard Eyre is one of the world's most respected directors of stage and screen. From 1988-1997, he served as artistic director of Britain's Royal National Theatre. While at the National, Eyre produced more than 100 productions and directed 27 plays, including Guys and Dolls (Olivier, Evening Standard, and Critics Circle Awards for Best Director); Richard III with Ian McKellen, Tom Stoppard's The Invention Of Love (Evening Standard Award); King Lear with Ian Holm (winner of Evening Standard, Olivier and Critics Circle Awards) which he also directed for BBC TV and WGBH (Peabody Award); Amy's View with Judi Dench, and Absence of War, which he also directed for BBC TV. Eyre's film credits include the Oscar-winning Iris, featuring Judi Dench and Kate Winslett, as well as The Ploughman's Lunch, Stage Beauty, Notes on a Scandal, and most recently The Other Man. On Broadway, he has directed Vincent in Brixton, The Crucible, and the long-running Mary Poppins. He was knighted in 1997. Carmen is Eyre's third opera production, having previously directed La Traviata for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Le Nozze di Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.