October 25, 2019
Georges Bizet composed one of the most beloved opera in history, Carmen. When it premiered at the National Theatre of the Opera Comique in Paris, on March 3, 1875, it wasn’t a hit. Audiences didn’t know what to make of the subject matter – a minxy cigarette girl who toys with men’s emotions, the realism of portraying working-class people, and the “noise” of the orchestra. At least Bizet was already acclaimed enough to be awarded the Legion of Honour, which was announced the same day as Carmen’s premiere.
There’s a connection to Carmen right here at The New Classical FM. “Classical Mornings” co-host Jean Stilwell performed the role of Carmen throughout her career, so I thought I’d ask her some questions about one of opera’s most well-known tragic heroines.
The role sits perfectly in my voice. The weight of the role, is a gift. The music is gorgeous, and it was sublime to sink into her fascinating personality. It was written for a solid lyric mezzo, although many sopranos have recorded it because it’s so juicy. Carmen is a very seductive, powerful, and beautifully written part.
How do you make it your own when the music is so well-known ?
Your back story must be thoroughly investigated with as much truth as you are able to reveal. Joan Dornemann, a brilliant coach at the Metropolitan Opera said in a Master Class, “you all need to go into therapy to know who you are so that you can access your truth and bring that uniqueness to your role.” I completely understood what she was saying. We are a work in progress right up until the day we die.
An exchange of energy is important, too. That is what relationships are all about. You listen and respond … you need to be open-hearted. It is a huge delightful challenge. Every time you perform, that performance is unique. It’s the same for actors. When I first sang Carmen, I was completely freaked out and intimidated. She IS the opera.
Georges Bizet was born October 25, 1838 in Paris, and died June 3, 1875, in Bougival, near Paris.
Liz Parker is the Digital Content Editor for The New Classical FM, a piano teacher, and stylist. [email protected]
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