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Notes From The Conductor: Carmen – Opera In Concert

Why did you choose Carmen?

Carmen is a masterpiece and has a lot of music that everybody knows because two orchestral suites were made after the opera. It is an incredible, passionate opera and there is a lot of back and forth from celebration to drama. The very last scene includes both atmospheres, which overlap.

What were your thoughts/feelings the first time you heard it?

I experienced this music very early in my life by playing parts of the suites when I was 12 or 13 years old. But the more I go deeper in studying and understanding this piece the more I love it. Of course when I was younger I enjoyed the brilliance and passion of this music. Now it’s easier to understand how much genius Bizet put in musique and Opéra-comique but always having a feeling of darkness underneath it.

As conductor for this concert, what is your role (alongside the director/host Daniel Isengart).

I have been working with Daniel since the very beginning of this project. The entire opera is a little too long for a concert version so together we needed to make some decisions about what to include. He knows the text and the music very well so we worked together for a year to have a clear direction for this concert. It is a huge project which includes a large number of singers and choir members so we had to make everything as clear as possible.

What is it like to do an opera in concert as opposed to a fully staged version?

Well in one way it is “easier” to put together an opera in concert. Typically with the orchestra in the pit and the choir and singers on stage it’s challenging to hear everything and to put all of the elements together. So being on stage without too much movement allows us to hear the music better. At the same time, however, it’s a challenge because the KWS is not an opera orchestra so they don’t know the entire opera as well as a pit orchestra normally would.

As is often the case with Carmen, you made choices about parts of the opera to cut, in other words making a slimmer performing version.  What principles and practicalities guided that process?

The very first question and decision for me and Daniel was to choose between a “highlights” evening or to put the story and the drama in action. We chose the second option but had to cut some famous music because it wasn’t crucial for the dramatic build up. This is always a challenge because every note of Bizet is genius throughout the opera.

– Andrei Feher