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Global exploration of Bizet’s Carmen launched

19 September 2018

Geraldine Farrar as Carmen with cast, New York 1914
Geraldine Farrar as Carmen with cast, New York 1914

A website documenting the performance history of Bizet’s Carmen from 1875 to 1945 has launched, tracking the opera’s movements and transformations through time and countries.

Curated by the School of Music’s Dr Clair Rowden, Carmen Abroad explores the ways in which Carmen has been shaped by performance traditions, the passing of time, and different ways of storytelling around the world.

The site includes a map and timeline, documenting the key facts for hundreds of international performances of Carmen.

These are complemented by a gallery of photos and illustrations, celebrating the opera’s history.

The site expands upon the research in the forthcoming volume Carmen Abroad (Cambridge University Press, 2020, supported by the Palazzetto Bru Zane, Centre de musique romantique francaise), edited by Professor Richard Langham Smith of the Royal College of Music and Dr Clair Rowden. The text will explore the establishment of Carmen in operatic repertoire and its movements around the globe until 1945.

Video testimonials have also been provided for Carmen Abroad by opera directors, singers, French coaches and composers, sharing the ways in which the Urtext vocal score of Carmen, edited by Professor Langham Smith and Dr Rowden and published by Edition Peters in 2014, has impacted upon their work.

This includes director Annabel Arden discussing her work on the 2017 Grange Festival production of Carmen, and composer Stephen McNeff discussing his 2014 adaptation of Carmen for MidWales Opera.

In spring 2019, Cardiff University’s Operatic Society will perform Carmen in Stephen McNeff’s reduction of the Edition Peter score.

Heather Fuller, President of the Operatic Society said: “We are really looking forward to our production of Carmen in the spring which will forge links between Dr Rowden's research, the expertise of Stephen McNeff and the performance culture in the department.”

For the past few years, opera research has been concerned with the way in which repertoire operas crossed national boundaries, how they were adapted to local performance traditions, and how they could speak and what they could say to audiences in a growing globalised world of operatic production with the international circulation of singers, scores and productions.

Dr Clair Rowden Reader in Musicology

“Carmen Abroad is a way of charting or literally mapping these issues with regard to perhaps the most famous opera in the repertoire today, Bizet’s Carmen, and is unique in its conception, scope and concentration on one iconic opera over a period of 70 years. Carmen Abroad stands alongside our forthcoming collected edition and the Edition Peters Carmen score which together provide a new 360° view of Carmen performance, from the composer to performers, from the score to the stage, from Paris to Tokyo, London to Sydney, or Milan to New York.”

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