Martin Kušej's brilliant 2006 Carmen represents a landmark interpretation of a truly timeless opera. Led by Rolando Villazón as Don José and Marina Domashenko in the title role, the virtuoso cast joins forces with the celebrated Staatskapelle Berlin under the direction of the legendary maestro Daniel Barenboim.
They make out that I am obscure, complicated, tedious, more fettered by technical skill than lit by inspiration. Well, this time I have written a work that is full of clarity and vivacity, full of color and melody. – Georges Bizet on Carmen in the summer of 1874.
In 1875, the 36-year-old Bizet was only a moderately successful opera composer. Little did he know that his new project, based on Prosper Mérimée's novella Carmen, was destined to immortalize his genius and become one of the most popular operas of all time. Ironically, the opera was met with incredibly negative critical reception, and when Bizet died of a heart attack on the night of its 31st performance, he died considering Carmen a failure. Just months later, the second production, mounted in Vienna, solidified the work's reputation as a masterpiece, and within the following three years, Carmen was produced in nearly every major European opera house!
This 2006 production was declared a great success, with Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as, "a perfect José, sung as he hasn't been sung in a long time." Marina Domashenko's lush mezzo-soprano voice and the illustrious Staatskapelle Berlin under the baton of Daniel Barenboim make this production an operatic experience not to be missed!
Photo: © Nyika Jancsó