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Professor Clair Rowden to examine significance of Bizet’s Carmen on new Sky Arts’ series

28 September 2023

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

Professor Clair Rowden will appear as an expert on the opera Carmen on Sky Arts’ new series, Musical Masterpieces.

Hosted by Myleene Klass and Errollyn Wallen CBE, the series will present new performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed by Sinfonia Cymru, Bizet’s Carmen performed by Opera North, and Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra.

The series will examine the composers’ techniques and investigate the background and context of the iconic pieces.

Professor Rowden is regarded as a leading authority on opera and nineteenth-century France. She collaborated with Richard Langham Smith for the new edition of Carmen (Peters Edition), which used manuscripts, performance scores, libretti and staging manuals from the original Parisian productions.

Professor Rowden is also co-editor of Carmen Abroad, a collection identifying the ways in which Carmen has been performed, produced, disseminated and interpreted worldwide. By studying performances of the opera across the world over a seventy-year period, the book challenges the assumptions that performances outside Europe are in some way inferior. In doing so, it remodels operatic history as a global cultural phenomenon.

The Carmen Abroad project led to an interactive website, which maps the opera’s performance history worldwide, from its Parisian premiere in 1875 up to 1945. The website offers new ways for audiences to engage with Carmen’s history, and users can navigate historic performances while accessing performance data in textual, visual and aural formats.

Professor Rowden said: “Carmen is one of the most widely performed operas in the world today. Its gritty story deals with issues – migrant workers, illegal activities, feminicide – that seem as pressing today as they were in the late-nineteenth century, and yet it is often the ‘picture-postcard Spain’ which wins out and draws audiences time and time again to the theatre.

“Understanding Carmen, how Bizet, his librettists and the first Carmen, Céléstine Galli-Marié conceived the work, and its appeal for audiences over the last 150 years, is crucial for the opera industry and spectators so that Carmen remains relevant and its performance endures.”

Viewers can watch Professor Rowden discuss the history of Carmen on Musical Masterpieces on Sky Arts at 8pm on Monday 2nd October.

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