Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most performed and beloved operas and it has timeless resonance. The story of a woman who does exactly what she wants with her life, but has to pay the ultimate price in the end, losing her life because a man can’t take being rejected. The title character is sexually liberated, reveling in an outlaw life, and the patriarchal moral demands of Bizet’s time are still in play today: female sexual “outlaws” are not allowed to get away with it.
Despite what should be an outmoded ethical double standard, the ride in Carmen is a glorious one with some of the best known music and songs in the classical operatic canon, and watching Carmen flout every notion of rectitude is great fun! The most disturbing element comes at the end as she accepts and almost encourages her fate of having her very bright flame extinguished early. A bitter pill to swallow these days, but there is so much “sugar” in this extravaganza, and Don José’s anguish for his murderous deed is so strong, that it isn’t hard to take the medicine. Go see this wonderful Opera Santa Barbara production, the best of the 6 Carmen operas I have seen, with outstanding pacing, singing, acting and music!