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Georges Bizet Carmen

Opera in three acts and four scenes

Text by Henri Meilhac (1831–1897) and Ludovic Halévy (1834–1908) based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée (1803–1870)

New production
In French with German and English surtitles

Co-production with the Salzburg Easter Festival
and the Teatro Real, Madrid

Duration approx. 3,15 hours.


  • 14 August 2012, 19:00


  • 17 August 2012, 20:00
  • 19 August 2012, 15:00
  • 25 August 2012, 19:30

Print programme (PDF)


Simon Rattle, Conductor
Aletta Collins, Stage Director and Choreography
Miriam Buether, Stage Design
Gabrielle Dalton, Costume Design
Peter Blaha, Dramaturgy
Andreas Fuchs, Lighting
Ernst Raffelsberger, Chorus Master
Wolfgang Götz, Children's Chorus Master


Magdalena Kožená, Carmen, a gypsy
Jonas Kaufmann, Don José, a corporal
Kostas Smoriginas, Escamillo, a bullfighter
Genia Kühmeier, Micaëla, a country girl
Christian van Horn, Zuniga, a lieutenant
Andrè Schuen, Moralès, a corporal
Christina Landshamer, Frasquita, a gipsy
Rachel Frenkel, Mercédès, a gipsy
Simone Del Savio, Le Dancaïre, a smuggler
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Le Remendado, a smuggler
Barbara Spitz, Lillas Pastia
Gemma Payne, Cree Barnett Williams, Anna Buonomo, Laura Caldow, Rosa Chimenti, Soledad De La Hoz, Claudia Evans, Lucy Foster-Perkins, Manon Greiner, Cara Louise Horsley, Caroline Mathias, Lauren Okadigbo, Laura Peña Nuñez, Aurelia Poles, Jennifer Winter, Michael Barnes, Robert Eugene, Carl Harrison, Daniel Hay-Gordon, Owen Ridley-DeMonick, Dancers

Vienna Philharmonic
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor

*Due to a sudden sickness of his voice during the premiere on 14 August, Kostas Smoriginas was not able to continue to sing the role of Escamillo after the intermission. Massimo Cavalletti stepped in to sing the role of Escamillo from the side of the stage while Kostas Smoriginas acted on stage.


Carmen – Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Vienna Philharmonic – is one of the most frequently performed operas of the world. While Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy based their libretto on Prosper Merimée’s novella, the opera itself became the subject of numerous adaptations ranging from dance theater to film.
To Aletta Collins, who directs
Carmen for the 2012 Salzburg Easter
Festival, this popularity presents a special challenge. “People love this
opera. Everybody knows it; everybody is familiar with its melodies. One must take great care not to present
Carmen as a sequence of individual
numbers, or to let the story take its own course, as that way one runs the risk of losing sight of the story. The point is to find a fresh approach to the story and to focus on the drama told by this wonderful music.” The point is also to tell the story of Carmen (Magdalena Kožená) and her love for Don José (Jonas Kaufmann), whom she tires of later and who finally murders her because she has found a new love with the torero Escamillo, in a fresh and convincing way. The director feels no need to
subject the opera to any obvious updating, but she does move the time of the action to the era of the Spanish Civil War, because the social dynamics of that age seem useful to her to expose the core of the drama. “It is important for Carmen’s self-concept that she is a ‘gypsy’, an outsider. The Civil War destroyed the old order and forced people to create a new one, resulting in ‘open spaces’ which outsiders like Carmen could use for their own purposes.” (Aletta Collins)