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on February 21, 2021
This is the page for the performance on February 21, 2021.
If you would like to attend a performance of this production, you will find further dates below.
Music Georges Bizet Text Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halévy
→ Opéra comique in vier Akten


Future dates

18. April 2024
19.30 - 22.30
1 intermission
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21. April 2024
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
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25. April 2024
18.30 - 21.30
1 intermission
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28. April 2024
19.00 - 22.00
1 intermission
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Cast 21.02.2021

Conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada
Production Calixto Bieito
Szenische Einstudierung Joan Anton Rechi
Stage Design Alfons Flores
Costume Design Mercè Paloma
Lighting Design Alberto Rodriguez Vega
Carmen Anita Rachvelishvili
Don José Piotr Beczala
Escamillo,Toreador Erwin Schrott
Micaëla Vera-Lotte Boecker
Frasquita Slávka Zámečníková
Mercédès Szilvia Vörös
Zuniga Peter Kellner
Moralès, Sergeant Martin Häßler
Remendado Carlos Osuna
Dancaïre Michael Arivony


It is a story full of misunderstandings: Love is confused with desire, an affair with an exclusive relationship, affection with possessiveness and violence with passion. But the highest price in this web is paid by Carmen - a woman who loves her independence more than anything else.

Program booklet (2,50€)


Act 1

Under the command of their corporal Moralès, soldiers are on guard duty outside a cigarette factory in the South of Spain. Micaëla, a young woman from the Basque region, is looking for a man she grew up with, Don José. He is not on duty. When the soldiers start to scare her making strong advances, she runs away.

After the changing of the guard, as José goes on duty, the cigarette factory employees take a long break. The female workers enter the square – watched enthusiastically by the men. The woman most eagerly awaited is Carmen. She arrives and sings a song about the unpredictability and uncontrollability of love. At the end, she throws a flower to José.

Micaëla gives José a letter and tells him, that his mother has also instructed her to give José a kiss for her. José is moved and confused about this surprising remembrance of his past life.

The female workers alarm the guarding soldiers: during a fight Carmen has injured one of her co-workers. During questioning by the lieutenant Zuniga, Carmen answers provocatively. José is ordered to guard and keep a watch on Carmen. By flirting and the promise of possibly meeting her later at Lilia Pastia’s bar, Carmen makes José neglect his duties. Carmen is able to escape.

Act 2

On the outskirts of the city, Lilia Pastia hosts an improvised bar in which Zuniga and Morales are guests entertained by Frasquita and Mercédès. Carmen sings a stimulating song. Accompanied by celebrating soldiers, the bullfighter Escamillo then arrives. After being cheered and acclaimed, he moves on with his entourage.

The smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado suggest to the women a potential criminal maneuver in which their feminine charms are particularly required. Frasquita and Mercédès accept and join them, but Carmen declines. She is in love with José and chooses to wait for him.

José was punished to two months in prison because of Carmen’s escape, but today he can finally see her again. Unfortunately, after a short time, the last post trumpet call is heard and Carmen is infuriated that José wants to follow the call and return obediently to the barracks. The argument escalates. At the moment José finally decides to leave, lieutenant Zuniga returns to the bar, who has likewise thrown a glance at Carmen. José defends her aggressively. As José and Zuniga fight each other, the smugglers return and dispatch the lieutenant. Since José has now ignored the last trumpet call and attacked his superior officer, there is no way back and he has no choice but to lead a life as a member of the smugglers’ gang.

Act 3

In the frontier zone, the smugglers meet and wait for an opportunity to bring their goods over the border. Carmen and José are arguing with each other, and not for the first time: she will not let herself be controlled, and in such moments, he sees the devil in her.

Mercédès is convinced she will find a great love, while Frasquita predicts for herself a rich husband who will soon pass away. Carmen sees death in the cards: first her own and then José’s.

The smugglers get to work. Micaëla has managed to catch up to the smugglers but narrowly misses their withdrawal. She hides, waits, and hopes to find José.

José, who has stayed behind in sentry duty, meets Escamillo, who would like to see Carmen again. José attacks him with a knife. The returning smugglers separate the fighters. Escamillo takes leave of them confident of his victory and invites them all to his next bullfight. The smugglers discover Micaëla. She begs José to return to his mother. José hesitates because he is fearful that in his absence Carmen could turn her attention to Escamillo. Micaëla finally explains that José’s mother is dying and can thereby at last convince him. Escamillo’s song is heard in the distance.

Act 4

The arena’s entrance is full of excitement. The fans are cheering for the entering participants of the bullfight, especially the wildly acclaimed matador Escamillo. Before the bullfight begins, he and Carmen pledge their love to each other.

Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen about José, who they have seen in the crowd, but Carmen refuses to evade the confrontation and stays behind alone. José begs Carmen to renew their relationship and threatens her, but she no longer loves him and is not willing to play the hypocrite. While the fans in the arena celebrate the successful Escamillo, José stabs Carmen.


It's a story full of misunderstandings: Love is confused with desire, an affair with an exclusive relationship, affection with possession, and violence with passion. But the highest price in this web of dysfunctional relationships is paid by Carmen – a woman who loves her independence more than anything else, including men. Her murderer is the dutiful soldier Don José, who until now only had eyes for his mother and the young Micaëla, with whom he grew up together. But when he notices Carmen, the worker coveted by all his comrades, he also falls for her. After Carmen’s arrest due to a bloody scuffle, José enables her to escape and follows her into illegality. Both of them now live in a gang of smugglers. Yet while living together, José puts Carmen under pressure with his jealousy and loses her affection.
When he returns from a visit to his mother, he finds that Carmen is now in love with the successful bullfighter Escamillo. Although Carmen is aware of José's tendency towards uncontrolled violence, she faces the confrontation. While Escamillo hunts down a bull in the arena, José stabs his former girlfriend in the forecourt.
The fact that the opera is set exclusively in the lower strata of society, among soldiers, smugglers, Spanish Roma and factory workers, was considered shocking to the Paris audience at its premiere in 1875. Not to mention that the dying title heroine was refused a farewell aria – which was also felt to be an expression of harshness and violence. It was not until the Vienna performance series that the triumphal march of Carmen began that same year. Two musical motifs characterize the opera: the self-confident refrain of the famous »Toréador« song and a mysterious, sombre motif associated with Carmen's premature and violent death, which she perceives as fateful. In the finale, when the victorious torero is cheered in the bullring while the stabbed Carmen collapses at the gates, the two melodies come together.
The literary model for the opera – a novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée – shows Carmen as a morally depraved person who unscrupulously exploits men for her own ends or even lures them into deadly traps. Georges Bizet and his librettists, on the other hand, transformed their main character into a fascinating woman whom men find so attractive precisely because she refuses to accept traditional norms. It is not with her looks but with her voice that she draws Don José’s attention to herself by singing a habanera, a dance song of African-American origin: »L'amour est un oiseau rebelle« (»Love is a rebellious bird«). Carmen's dazzling and non-conformist personality is reflected in her singing part, which is as powerful as it is tender.
The worldwide celebrated Anita Rachvelishvili for her role as Carmen will embody the protagonist for the first time at the Vienna State Opera, followed by Michèle Losier in the performances in May and June. The figure of Micaëla does not exist in the literary version; she was invented by Bizet and his librettists as a counter-figure to Carmen. The music portrays her as gentle instead of quick-tempered, as yielding and familiar instead of demanding and alien: her love and the love of José's mother, as whose messenger she acts, are hardly separable. But Micaëla also has a different, courageous and strong side, which shows itself at the very latest when she overcomes her fear and follows Don José when he loses his way to separate him from the smuggling gang and bring him back home. Whether she is telling the truth when she persuades Don José to come along with her by claiming that his mother is dying remains open. In February, Olga Kulchynska can be heard in this role at the Vienna State Opera for the first time, in May Vera-Lotte Boecker from our ensemble will make her debut. At home in Vienna, but at the Vienna State Opera for his inaugural performance, is conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
After Calixto Bieito had risen to fame as an acting director, »Carmen« became his first major opera production in 1999. Since then he has reworked and refined this legendary production several times. For him Carmen is neither the male fantasy of a femme fatale nor an emancipation symbol, but a character with individuality. Bieito shows the world of soldiers, workers and crooks in a Spanish border area free of »gypsy« kitsch and clichéd images; flamenco is only quoted ironically among Carmen's friends. But bullfighting is as much a living tradition as it is a symbol for the fight between two people - or is it the other way around? Incidentally, this production is also the director’s declaration of love to the people of his home country.

Attendance at the performance is recommended from the age of 14.

Co-production partner

Wiener Staatsoper’s production was originally created by San Francisco Opera in co-production with Boston Lyric Opera.