Met Opera's New Production of Bizet's CARMEN Opens New Years Eve

Met Opera's New Production of Bizet's CARMEN Opens New Years Eve

A new production of Bizet's Carmen, directed by Richard Eyre and starring El?na Garan?a in the title role and Roberto Alagna as Don José, premieres at a New Year's Eve gala performance. Garan?a makes her Met role debut as the gypsy femme fatale, reuniting with Alagna following their recent success in these parts at London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Acclaimed young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin makes his Met debut leading a cast that includes Barbara Frittoli as Micaëla and Mariusz Kwiecien in his Met role debut as Escamillo. Eyre makes his Met debut with the new production, as does set and costume designer Rob Howell. Peter Mumford designs the lighting, and Christopher Wheeldon creates the choreography for the new staging. Performances run through May 1, with later casts featuring Olga Borodina and Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, the latter for the first time in her stage career. Maija Kovalevska reprises her Micaëla, joined by Brandon Jovanovich in his Met debut and Jonas Kaufmann in his company role debut as Don José. Teddy Tahu Rhodes sings his first Escamillo with the company, and Alain Altinoglu makes his Met debut as conductor.

Richard Eyre, the renowned British director of theater and film, explores the grand scale of Carmen and the power of her desires in his new production. "Her sexuality is a lifeforce, it's a defining force," he explains. "Carmen is about sex, violence, and racism-and its corollary: freedom."
As for her portrayal of the free spirited gypsy, El?na Garan?a says, "You don't get to develop productions of Carmen from scratch too often. Carmen is defined by her unwillingness to settle. She is constantly searching and never satisfied. It may be sex or, more broadly, approval by men. It could also just be a zest for life, and in that she is uncompromising."
The January 16 matinee performance of Carmen will be transmitted to more than 1,000 movie theaters in 42 countries as part of The Met: Live in HD series, with soprano Renée Fleming as host.

About the performers

El?na Garan?a makes her Met role debut as Carmen. Garan?a made her company debut in 2008 as Rosina in IL Barbiere di Siviglia and returned the following season as Angelina in La Cenerentola, which was transmitted live in HD. Her La Cenerentola performance will be released on DVD in early 2010 on the DG label. Earlier this year, Garan?a performed the title role of Carmen at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London (opposite Roberto Alagna) and the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. In 2010, Garan?a brings her Carmen to the Vienna State Opera and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Garan?a, who received the 2006 European Culture Prize at the Dresden State Opera, is also the recipient of this year's Vocalist of the Year award from Musical America. She has recently performed the role of Charlotte in Massenet´s Werther in Baden-Baden and again at the Vienna State Opera. She also sang Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Barbara Frittoli returns as Micaëla, the role of her 1995 Met debut. The soprano, a native of Milan, most recently appeared here as Donna Elvira in the Met's 2009 revival of Don Giovanni. Frittoli's Met repertoire includes the title role of Suor Angelica in the 2007 new production of Il Trittico (shown live in HD), Mimì in La Bohème, Desdemona in Otello, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and the title role of Luisa Miller. Highlights of her upcoming engagements include the Verdi Requiem with Antonio Pappano at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Così fan tutte in Valencia, Le Nozze di Figaro in Madrid, Paris, and Munich, and Carmen and Don Giovanni at the Zurich Opera.
French tenor Roberto Alagna first sang the role of Don José at the Met in 2000. Last season, Alagna appeared as Ruggero in a new production of La Rondine, as well as both Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Pagliacci in the same performance. Since making his 1996 Met debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème, Alagna's Met repertoire has grown to include Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore, the Duke in Rigoletto, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette (shown live in HD), the title roles of both Faust and Werther, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Radamès in Aida. In 2010, Alagna will appear in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, perform a concert tour in France, and appear in Manon at the Vienna State Opera.

Mariusz Kwiecien makes his Met role debut as Escamillo. In the 2008-09 season, the Polish baritone appeared as Marcello in La Bohème and as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, which was shown live in HD. Kwiecien, a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made his Met debut in 1999 as Kuligin in Kát'a Kabanová. His company repertoire also includes Haly in L'Italiana in Algeri, Silvio in Pagliacci, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Dr. Malatesta in the 2006 new production of Don Pasquale. Kwiecien's other engagements this season include a pair of Mozart roles: Count Almaviva at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Bavarian State Opera, and Don Giovanni for the Bavarian State Opera. He also performs two bel canto roles at the Vienna State Opera, appearing as Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore and Riccardo in I Puritani.

Olga Borodina first sang Carmen at the Met in 2000, and returned to the role in 2004 and 2008. Earlier this season, the Russian mezzo-soprano performed Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust. Last season, she appeared here as Laura in La Gioconda and the Princess di Bouillon in Adriana Lecouvreur. In September of 2008, she was the mezzo-soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem, conducted by James Levine, which the Met presented in memory of Luciano Pavarotti. Borodina made her Met debut as Marina in Boris Godunov in 1997 and starred in Samson et Dalila on the opening night of the 1998-99 season. Her company repertoire includes Amneris in Aida, Paulina in The Queen of Spades, Isabella in L'Italiana in Algeri, the title role in La Cenerentola, and Eboli in Don Carlo. She has also appeared three times in concert with Music Director James Levine and the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, singing Ravel's Schéhérazade, Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre, and Wolf's Kennst du das Land.

Angela Gheorghiu sings the title role of Carmen in her debut stage performance of the role on April 28, 2010. Also this season, the Romanian soprano reprises her acclaimed portrayal of Violetta in La Traviata. Last season, Gheorghiu took on the role of Magda in a new production of La Rondine, which was shown live in HD. Gheorghiu made her 1993 Met debut as Mimì in La Bohème. Her Met repertoire now includes Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Liù in Turandot, Marguerite in Faust, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Micaela in Franco Zeffirelli's new production of Carmen (1996), and Act II of Tosca, the title role, in the season opening gala in 2005.

Brandon Jovanovich makes his Met debut as Don José. The American tenor, winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award, has previously performed Don José at the Washington National Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Flemish Opera, and the Palm Beach Opera. Also this season, Jovanovich will sing Luigi in Il Tabarro (San Francisco Opera), Boris in Kát'a Kabanová (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos (Boston Lyric Opera), Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Dallas Opera), and Števa in a new production of Jen?fa (Bavarian State Opera).

Jonas Kaufmann makes his Met role debut as Don José, and later in the season adds another role to his repertoire with the company, Cavaradossi in Tosca. The German tenor made his Met debut in 2006 as Alfredo in La Traviata and has since performed Tamino in Die Zauberflöte here. Elsewhere this season, Kaufmann sings two title roles-Don Carlo at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Werther in a new production at the Paris Opera. Later in 2010, Kaufmann will perform Don José and Cavaradossi at the Bavarian State Opera.

Winner of Plácido Domingo's Operalia World Opera Competition in 2006, Maija Kovalevska made her Met debut that same year as Mimì. Kovalevska followed with her acclaimed performance as Euridice in the 2007 new production of Orfeo ed Euridice directed by Mark Morris. In 2008, The Latvian soprano returned to the Met as Micaëla in Carmen and again as Mimì. Kovalevska has also recently appeared as Mimì with San Francisco Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, and at the Torre del Lago Festival.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes makes his Met role debut as Escamillo. The New Zealand baritone made his Met debut in the 2008 new production of Peter Grimes, which was seen live in HD and is now available on DVD. Rhodes recently performed Antony in Antony and Cleopatra (New York City Opera), the title role in Billy Budd (Opera Australia, Santa Fe Opera), Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (Theater an der Wien), and Lescaut in Manon Lescaut (Opera Australia). Later this season, Rhodes will perform Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Washington National Opera.

Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin holds a range of prominent musical posts, including artistic director and principal conductor of Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain and, most recently, music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Nézet-Séguin is also principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He appears frequently with international orchestras and opera companies; this season marks his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic. His recent opera performances include Madama Butterfly (Montreal Opera), Roméo et Juliette (Salzburg Festival), and The Makropoulos Case (Netherlands Opera).

Alain Altinoglu also makes his debut on the Met podium with Carmen. A native of Paris, Altinoglu is the principal guest conductor of the National Orchestra of Montpellier and is known for his conducting of the French operatic repertoire, including Roméo et Juliette (Vienna State Opera), La Voix Humaine (Toulouse), Mireille (Orange Festival), Orphée aux Enfers (Aix-en-Provence Festival), and Fiesque (Montpellier Festival). Also this season, Altinoglu conducts Faust at the Berlin State Opera and Salome at the Paris Opera.

About the production team

With more than 30 years of experience, Richard Eyre is one of the world's most respected directors of stage and screen. From 1988-1997, he served as artistic director of Britain's Royal National Theatre. While at the National, Eyre produced more than 100 productions and directed 27 plays, including Guys and Dolls (Olivier, Evening Standard, and Critics Circle Awards for Best Director); Richard III with Ian McKellen, Tom Stoppard's The Invention Of Love (Evening Standard Award); King Lear with Ian Holm (winner of Evening Standard, Olivier and Critics Circle Awards) which he also directed for BBC TV and WGBH (Peabody Award); Amy's View with Judi Dench, and Absence of War, which he also directed for BBC TV. Eyre's film credits include the Oscar-winning Iris, featuring Judi Dench and Kate Winslett, as well as The Ploughman's Lunch, Stage Beauty, Notes on a Scandal, and most recently The Other Man. On Broadway, he has directed Vincent in Brixton, The Crucible, and the long-running Mary Poppins. He was knighted in 1997. Carmen is Eyre's third opera production, having previously directed La Traviata for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Le Nozze di Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Rob Howell, winner of multiple Olivier Awards, makes his Met debut as set and costume designer. His recent theatrical productions include Troilus and Cressida, Chips with Everything, and Money (all for the Royal National Theatre), Habeas Corpus, The Fix, and The Glass Menagerie (all for the Donmar Warehouse), and The Painter of Dishonour, Richard III, and The Family Reunion (all for Royal Shakespeare Company). New York audiences are familiar with his acclaimed designs for such works as The Norman Conquests, Boeing-Boeing, The Graduate, Betrayal, and True West. Howell's opera credits include Turn of the Screw (Welsh National Opera) and the 2002 world premiere of Nicholas Maw's Sophie's Choice (Royal Opera, Covent Garden).

Winner of two Olivier awards, Peter Mumford made his Met debut in 2006 designing the lighting for Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly and returned in 2008 for the new production of Peter Grimes. Mumford has also designed lighting for The Bartered Bride (Royal Opera, Covent Garden), Die Soldaten (English National Opera), Il Trovatore (Paris Opera), La Cenerentola (Glyndebourne Opera), Giulio Cesare (Bordeaux Opera), and Parsifal (Welsh National Opera). The British designer counts among his Broadway credits the 2008 revival of The Seagull and the 2002 production of Private Lives.

British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon made his Met debut in 2006, creating dances for La Gioconda. A former dancer with the Royal Ballet and soloist with New York City Ballet (where he served as Resident Choreographer from 2001 to 2008), Wheeldon co-founded and now serves as artistic director of the dance company Morphoses. In 2005, Wheeldon's ballet Polyphonia received both the Dance Magazine Award and the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Ballet. In 2006, his work DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse) was nominated for an Olivier Award. For its 2007 season, Morphoses won the prestigious South Bank Show Award, while the young choreographer has personally been honored with the Lincoln Center Martin E. Segal Award and the American Choreography Award.

Live Broadcasts Around the World
Carmen will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters and on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.

The January 16 matinee will be transmitted to over 1,000 movie theaters worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series.

The premiere on December 31 will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79, as will the performances on January 12, 16, 21, February 1 and 9.
The performances on December 31 and February 9 will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming on the Met's website www.metopera.org.
In addition to The Met: Live in HD transmission, the January 16 matinee performance will also be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

About the Met
Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company's repertory. The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.

The Met's 2009-10 season features eight new productions, four of which are Met premieres. Opening night was a new production of Tosca starring Karita Mattila, conducted by Levine and directed by Luc Bondy. The four Met premieres are: Janá?ek's From the House of the Dead, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Patrice Chéreau, both in Met debuts; Verdi's Attila starring Ildar Abdrazakov, conducted by Riccardo Muti and directed by Pierre Audi, with set and costume design by Miuccia Prada, Jacques Herzog, and Pierre de Meuron, all in their Met debuts; Shostakovich's The Nose featuring Paulo Szot, conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed and designed by William Kentridge in his Met debut; and Rossini's Armida with Renée Fleming, conducted by Riccardo Frizza and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Other new productions are Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann starring Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko, and Alan Held, conducted by Levine and directed by Bartlett Sher; Carmen with El?na Garan?a and Roberto Alagna, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and directed by Richard Eyre, both in Met debuts; and Thomas's Hamlet with Natalie Dessay and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Louis Langrée and directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser in their Met debuts.
Building on its 78-year radio broadcast history-currently heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network-the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.

The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Met: Live in HD series returns for its fourth season in 2009-10 with nine transmissions, beginning October 10 with the new production of Tosca and ending with the new production of Rossini's Armida on May 1. The productions are seen in more than 1000 theaters in 44 countries around the world and last season sold more than 1.8 million tickets. These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and ten HD performances are now available on DVD. The Magic Flute was released by the Met and is available at the newly renovated Met Opera Shop. In addition, two classic Met performances from 1978 have recently been released by the Met: Otello, conducted by Levine with Jon Vickers and Renata Scotto; and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci conducted by Levine, with Tatiana Troyanos and Plácido Domingo in the first part of the double bill and Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes in the latter. The Met: Live in HD series is made possible by a generous grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation. Bloomberg L.P. is the global corporate sponsor of The Met: Live in HD.

HD Live in Schools, the Met's program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, continues for a third season. This season, for the second consecutive year the program will reach public school students and teachers in 18 cities and communities nationwide. HD Live in Schools is made possible by Bank of America.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera last season introduced Met Player, a new subscription service that makes much of the company's extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. The new service currently offers more than 180 historic audio recordings, and almost 100 full-length opera videos are available, including 26 of the company's acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality. New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, are added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Radio is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting an unprecedented number of live performances each week throughout the Met's entire season, as well as rare historical performances, newly restored and remastered, spanning the Met's 78-year broadcast history.

In addition to providing audio recordings through the Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks®.

The company's groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York's Lincoln Center Theater (LCT) provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The Met's partnership with LCT is part of the company's larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work. A new work by composer Nico Muhly and playwright Craig Lucas was workshopped this fall.

The Met audience development initiatives include Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met, which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program; and an annual Holiday Presentation for families. This season's special Holiday Presentation is Richard Jones's English-language production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which is given four matinee performances and four evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.