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Things you may not have known about ‘Carmen’

This May 7, the CCP’s The Met: Live in HD presents its second installment for its ninth season – French composer Georges Bizet’s Carmen, a tragic opera about a gypsy woman named Carmen who seduces an army corporal guarding her prison cell. Their tumultuous love affair ends when Carmen turns her attention to a bullfighter. The corporal’s love turns to jealousy and violence. 

An opera brings its audience to a world created through an interesting collaboration between a librettist and composer. Opera is brought to life by vocal pieces and arias performed by singers, with live instrumental accompaniment from an orchestra. 

This May 7, the CCP’s The Met: Live in HD presents its second installment for its ninth season – French composer Georges Bizet’s Carmen, a tragic opera about a gypsy woman named Carmen who seduces an army corporal guarding her prison cell. Their tumultuous love affair ends when Carmen turns her attention to a bullfighter. The corporal’s love turns to jealousy and violence. 

Through this program, the Cultural Center of the Philippines aims to reintroduce to Filipino audiences, especially to the younger generations, classical opera masterpieces whose stories transcend boundaries and cultural backgrounds, while remaining relevant to the time. 

Before you head to Greenbelt 3 Cinema 1 in Makati City for the special opera screening, here are some interesting facts you probably should know about Carmen: 

1. The plot of Carmen was based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Merimee, which was published in October 1845 in Revue des Deux Mondes. It was said that Merimee was inspired by a poem written by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. French librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy wrote the libretto for the opera, with music by Bizet. 

2. Bizet never saw Carmen rise to fame. He died from a heart condition at age 36, three months after the opera premiered in 1875. When it was first staged, the members of the ton rejected the opera. Bizet died believing Carmen, considered his last opera, was a failure. He had never known that the “scandalous” opera would go on to become one of the best-loved and most-performed operas of all time. 

3. Its hummable arias Habanera and Toreador have been featured in various commercials like the Doritos ad, dubbed Mouse Trap, in 2008. The Pepsi commercial in 2002 featured Beyonce singing to the tune of the Habanera aria, just with different lyrics. 

4. During the 1988 Winter Olympics, champion skaters Debi Thomas and Katerina Witt performed in the figure skating programs with Habanera. 

5. Carmen in pop culture: Disney’s Pixar used Habanera in an emotional scene in the film Up (2009). Sesame Street, the defunct children’s show, featured Habanera several times, including a scene with an orange singing the aria and as a lullaby for Elmo (both performed by opera singer Denyce Graves). In one of its episodes of The Simpsons, Bart, Homer, Lisa, and Marge are seen going to the opera house to watch Carmen, with Toreador playing in the background. The Swedish Chef and Beaker of The Muppets croon Carmen’s Habanera. 

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6. Carmen has been adapted into films, ballet, and Broadway. In 1943, the musical “Carmen Jones” hit Broadway and later became a movie with the same title in 1954. Both featured music by Oscar Hammerstein. In the 1960s, director Wang Tian-lin adapted it into “The Wild Wild Rose,” starring Grace Chang, and set in Hong Kong and with songs sung in Mandarin.  

7. Beyonce made her acting debut through the recent adaptation of Carmen, titled “Carmen: A Hip Hopera.” Directed by Rober Townsend, the 2001 film is a contemporary retelling of the classic tale, following a police sergeant (Mekhi Phifer) whose life is turned upside down when an irresistible woman (Beyonce) enters his life. 

8. Although Carmen was written in French, Spanish culture strongly inspired the opera. This is quite evident in  Carmen’s Seguidilla, Don José’s Flower aria, and Escamillo’s famous Toreador’s Song. While you can see the Spanish influence, Bizet never actually set foot in Spain.

9. The first Carmen, French mezzo-soprano Célestine Galli-Marié, forced Bizet to rewrite Habanera – 13 times! – until she was satisfied. 

10. Carmen can be found in your kitchen or your favorite restaurant.  Famous French chef Auguste Escoffier, known as “the king of chefs and the chef of kings,” loved the opera so much that he created and dedicated two dishes – the Carmen chops and Carmen salad. 

Ticket prices are Php 100.00 for students and Php 350.00 for regular audiences. You may visit the ticket booth or book via www.sureseats.com

For updates on future productions and showings from the Metropolitan Opera of New York and other partners and programs of the CCP, you may follow the official CCP and CCP FBNMD social media accounts on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

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