Georges Bizet‘s captivating music with its Spanish sounds took the world by storm: Carmen‘s Habanera and Seguidilla, like Escamillo‘s Toreador‘s Song, are known to one and all. The French composer‘s most successful opera is staged at Bregenz lake stage with a set designed by British artist Es Devlin. She has designed sets for pop stars like Adele, U2, Take That, the Pet Shop Boys and Kanye West. In collaboration with the stage director Kasper Holten, she has also worked at opera houses in Helsinki and Copenhagen, at the Theater an der Wien and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. For the Danish stage director, this “opera about destiny and obsession” centres on “two people who are treated as outsiders, whose paths cross and who cling to each other in a passionate but unhealthy relationship”. Act I: In front of a tobacco factory, the soldiers, bored with their sentry duties, eagerly await the lunch break at the factory so they can watch the working women coming outside, especially the most coveted of all: Carmen. She sings of love and throws a flower to José, whilst Micaëla brings José a kiss from his mother. He then sees his mother as a protector before the demonic Carmen. After Carmen injures a colleague with a knife, she is led by José to Lieutenant Zuniga. Zuniga orders José to guard Carmen, but she manages to bewitch him to such a point that he helps her to escape. Act II: Carmen sings with Frasquita, Mercédès, and her companions in Lillas Pastias Bar, accompanied by an increasingly wild dance. The bullfighter, Escamillo, makes advances towards Carmen, but she refuses his overtures. The smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado persuade the gypsy girls to cooperate with them in their next venture. Singing, José approaches Carmen, who dances seductively for him: that being the promised reward for her liberation. When José wants to follow the signal for a roll-call at the barracks, Carmen taunts him for his sense of duty: if he really loved her, he would follow her into the smuggling life. José reluctantly follows the smugglers into their free lives – lives much glorified by everyone else. Act III: Frasquita, Mercédès, and Carmen read their futures from the cards and Carmen learns that she will die together with José. José approaches Escamillo as he learns about his love for Carmen. Micaëla intervenes and, like all the others, is invited by Escamillo to his next bullfight in the arena. Micaëla tells José of his dying mother and convinces him to follow her. Beseechingly, he promises Carmen that they will meet again. Act IV: In the arena, Escamillo asserts Carmen’s love and goes into battle. Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen about José. He begs her to start a new life with him somewhere else. She refuses, declaring that she does not love him anymore. At the moment when Escamillo’s victory over the bull is rejoiced, José kills Carmen.
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