Sung in French with projected English translations
The gypsy Carmen is a sexy temptress, drawing the eye of the naïve Don José. When she leaves him for the bullfighter Escamillo, jealousy ignites and threatens to burn them all. Peter Brook’s gripping adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen distills the drama into an intense one-act chamber opera.
Micaëla, a young country girl, arrives in Seville looking for her childhood sweetheart, Don José. She brings him a letter from his mother. A gypsy, Carmen, throws a flower to the young corporal and sings an erotic love song.
The two girls fight and José's superior, Zuniga, appears. Unable to control Carmen, he orders José to take her to jail. En route, Carmen promises José that if he lets her escape she will meet him at the inn of her friend Lillias Pastia. José lets Carmen go, whereupon Zuniga locks him up and takes away the corporal's rank. Carmen arrives at the inn with stolen goods. Zuniga comes to see Carmen and offers money for her favors. Carmen accepts, but shortly thereafter Jose enters.
Carmen abandons Zuniga and sings for José. At this moment the bugles blow, summoning José back to the barracks. Carmen is furious and taunts him; the situation becomes tense. José discovers Zuniga, loses control and kills the officer.
The body is quickly hidden as Escamillo, a famous bullfighter, enters. Buying drinks all around, he announces that he, too, wants Carmen. José, jealous, picks a fight with Escamillo. Carmen separates them and Escamillo withdraws, inviting all to his next bullfight.
José, who has now killed for Carmen, sings of his love for her. They go to the mountains where an old gypsy woman unites them.
While they are sleeping, Garcia appears at the camp. He is Carmen's husband, though she has hidden his existence from José. The two men challenge each other and as they go off to fight, Carmen reads her tragic fate in the cards. The song ends, Garcia returns wounded and falls dead at Carmen's feet.
Micaëla appears again searching for José; the two women seem to understand each other. They sing while José, twice a murderer and abandoned by Carmen, flees. Carmen becomes Escamillo's mistress. José returns to persuade her to leave with him to start a new life. She refuses, knowing she is putting her life in jeopardy.
Escamillo is killed in the bullring. Carmen still refuses José's offer, but she goes with him as far as the place where the cards have foretold that she will die.
This production has been made possible, in part, by grants from the Alabama Power Foundation, Caring Foundation / Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Robert R. Meyer Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts.