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She‘s desired by all and is an object of fascination for the soldiers on guard duty as they smoke and play cards: Carmen. The soldier Don José is ordered to detain her after a fight but she twists him around her finger. He is arrested for his weakness but is soon released. He sees the flower she threw at him as a token of her love and dreams of spending his life with her, even at the cost of losing his rank and status. He hides out with her band of smugglers, ignores Micaëla‘s words of warning, and even imagines he‘s more than a match for Escamillo, the swaggering bullfighter. The latter, however, has long since captured Carmen‘s heart, making Don José mad with jealousy...

One of the most popular and beloved operas of the world, Georges Bizet’s Carmen, sees a new staging at the Bregenz Festival, with its breathtaking backdrop of Lake Constance and a spectacular set design by British artist Es Devlin. The title role of Carmen is performed by rising star mezzo-soprano Gaëlle Arquez, alongside Swedish tenor Daniel Johansson as strongly passionate Don José.

Acting with unrestrained intensity and displaying a stunning array of vocal colours, Gaëlle Arquez is at the centre of attention. She embodies Carmen “in a finely nuanced and completely natural way, as if she had just invented Habanera & Co.” (Tagesspiegel). The Wiener Symphoniker play Bizet’s powerful score with elegance and technical virtuosity, under the “sensitive and energetic musical direction” (The Telegraph) by Paolo Carignani.

This new production on the Bregenz lake-stage has been staged by Kasper Holten, who has been attracting great attention for his work at major theatres around the world, in particular for his “Copenhagen Ring” and his stagings as Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Set Designer Es Devlin, who already designed sets for pop stars like Adele, U2, Take That, the Pet Shop Boys and Kanye West, has created a set construction with an impressive height of 21 metres. The playing cards, which seem to hover between two massive hands, are not only part of the scene but also serve as projection surfaces.

The Telegraph is full of praise: “The lake-stage in Bregenz is a venue for theatrical spectaculars, and Kasper Holten’s production of Carmen on Es Devlin’s extraordinary set was a knockout! […] If opera is theatre, and it certainly should be, then this big-audience production serves it brilliantly.”

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