Carmen

Georges Bizet (1838 – 1875)
Opéra comique in four acts by Georges Bizet; Libretto by Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella by Prosper Mérimée; First performed on 3rd March 1875, in Paris; Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 11th May 1979; Revised version on 8th March 2008

Sensuous, offensive and devoid of all civic sense of morality: CARMEN, Georges Bizet’s story of a fatal love triangle, scandalised the audience at its premiere at the Paris Opéra Comique in 1875 and spent years playing to small, fringe audiences as a result - unimaginable today, the work being the household name among operas. The tale of Carmen and Don José, at once banal and existential, ends with an inevitably tragic murder. Carmen’s absolute need for freedom and her insistence on relationships based on complete independence and equality make her irresistible to Don José, who nonetheless proves unable to tolerate her urge to defend her liberty. A victim of his own desire, he is finally driven to destroy his lover and himself with her.

To convey this tragic material Bizet succeeded in using the medium of an opéra comique that presents us with all the emotions and traits of the human condition – levity, drabness, silliness and stoniness, seduction and playfulness, cruelty and destiny. Of all the familiar features of the work, perhaps the best known is the original Cuban »habanera« used by the tobacco worker Carmen to attract the attention of Don José. The music of the opera, filled with catchy melodies, is dominated by dance routines and Spanish rhythms. The savage, romantic country beyond the Pyrenees enthralled Georges Bizet among many others, and »Carmen« is today considered the central work expressing French yearnings for their unknown, idealised neighbour to the south. In 19th-century Paris this operatic depiction of fated lovers, with its erotic overtones and its tension between absolute devotion and undiluted liberty, could only be performed where bourgeois boundaries, both spatial and ideological, had been rejected.

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Deutsche Oper Berlin

The Deutsche Oper Berlin is an opera company located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, Germany. The resident building is the country's second largest opera house and also home to the Berlin State Ballet.

The company's history goes back to the Deutsches Opernhaus built by the then independent city of Charlottenburg—the "richest town of Prussia"—according to plans designed by Heinrich Seeling from 1911. It opened on November 7, 1912 with a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, conducted by Ignatz Waghalter. After the incorporation of Charlottenburg by the 1920 Greater Berlin Act, the name of the resident building was changed to Städtische Oper (Municipal Opera) in 1925.

Deutsches Opernhaus, 1912
With the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933, the opera was under control of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Minister Joseph Goebbels had the name changed back to Deutsches Opernhaus, competing with the Berlin State Opera in Mitte controlled by his rival, the Prussian minister-president Hermann Göring. In 1935, the building was remodeled by Paul Baumgarten and the seating reduced from 2300 to 2098. Carl Ebert, the pre-World War II general manager, chose to emigrate from Germany rather than endorse the Nazi view of music, and went on to co-found the Glyndebourne opera festival in England. He was replaced by Max von Schillings, who acceded to enact works of "unalloyed German character". Several artists, like the conductor Fritz Stiedry or the singer Alexander Kipnis followed Ebert into emigration. The opera house was destroyed by a RAF air raid on 23 November 1943. Performances continued at the Admiralspalast in Mitte until 1945. Ebert returned as general manager after the war.

After the war, the company in what was now West Berlin used the nearby building of the Theater des Westens until the opera house was rebuilt. The sober design by Fritz Bornemann was completed on 24 September 1961. The opening production was Mozart's Don Giovanni. The new building opened with the current name.

© Günter Karl Bose
© © Günter Karl Bose
© Bettina Stöß
© © Bettina Stöß
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