The Voix en Vigne Lyric Festival at prestigious Château Roubine was honoring the element Fire on July 11: the fire of love resonated with strength and grace under the summer starred sky of Provence. Carmen, the Rebel Bird sang its song of life, its passionate impetus of senses, its cry for freedom before facing its destiny.
Carmen, created by George Bizet in Paris in 1875, is one of the most performed opera in the world. From “Carmen”, a short story by Prosper Mérimée, it tells the tragic story of a free and independant woman with spellbinding beauty, sulfurours in some ways, who intents to take the man she loves and leave him once love is gone. But alas, in early 19th century Seville, she has still to deal with men’s machism and obstinate, blind passion. Carmen is a bohemian working as a cigar-maker in a manufacture facing the Alcala dragons military barracks. During the prelude, Carmen tells what she thinks of love in an utmost famous song: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebel bird): “Love is a Bohemia child, it has never ever known any law. If you do not love me, I love you and if I love you, you best beware!” When singing her song, Carmen spots brigadier Don José, approaches him, and after a light chat, she grabs off a flower from her bodice and throw it at the young man. Thus, she shows him he’d been chosen. Don José picks up the flower, smells it, whithout realizing he’s already under her spell.
Micaela arrives, tells Don José she comes on behalf of her mother, and gives him a letter in which her mother praises the young women qualities and advises him to marry her!… because “…there are no wiser or kinder woman.” Then, during a fight she provoked, Carmen injures a worker with her knife and is arrested, tied, and promised prison. Don José is put in charge to led her to it. On the way, Carmen sings him the “Seguidilla”, implying “my heart is as free as air …who wants to love me, I’ll love..” It does not take long for Don José to untie the rope and let his prisoner escape, singing overjoyed: ” Free, I’m free!” Alas, the gentle soldier goes in prison at her place.
Later in the Lillas Pastia’s tavern comes the bullfighter Escamillo, crowned with glory by his success in the arena and he sings “Toreador, on guard! Toreador! Do think that while fighting a black eye is watching you and love is waiting for you!” Finally, Don José finds Carmen when released from prison. He is always carrying with him the flower she gave him, faded now, but proving that he was only thinking about her. Carmen asked him then, to prove his love, to follow her up in the mountain and join the smugglers. Don José, braving shame and stigma of desertion eventually gives in.
Some time later, Carmen finds that Don José is not done for the trade of smuggler and at the same time she is feeling his love falter. Don José realizes it and also think of his aging mother. Carmen only sees bad omens in the cards. Don José shoots a stranger lurking around the camp, but misses him. This stranger is Escamillo come to obtain Carmen’s favors, and the two men confront each other. Carmen intervenes and prevents Don José of stabbing Escamillo. When he left, Don José warns Carmen not to hurt him any longer. Micaela arrives, entering the camp singing “I’m doing the brave at heart, but I die of fright.” She comes for Don José, because his mother is dying. Carmen encourages Don José to go, and so does he, promising to see her again.
In the last act, Escamillo arrives in the arena of Seville, accompanied by Carmen. But Don José is there and starts to beg Carmen and proclaims his love for her. Carmen says she no longer loves him, but Don José insists: “… but I, I still love you!” To end Don José’s begging, Carmen removes and throws the ring he had given her. Don José, driven mad by this gesture, stabbed her to death.
Carmen opera at Voix en Vigne was brillantly interpreted by very high-level performers: Carmen was played by soprano Murielle Tomao, who performs on major lyric stages; soprano Fleur Catalano was Micaela, she also performs on opera stages in France and abroad; Don José was interpreted by tenor Norbert Xeri, who perfomes in key opera roles and tenor Norbert Dole, who sings under the greatest conductors, was Escamillo. They were accompanied by the Giocoso Orchestra, under the direction of Pierre Iodice, who conducts the Marseille Opera Choirs. At the beginning, the Giocoso Orchestra performed Rossini’s Barbier de Séville opening and Mozart’s Opening of The Marriage of Figaro.
After thanking the artists and the orchestra for the quality of their performance, Château Roubine owner Valérie Rouselle offered the audience a fireworks.