“The mystery Carmen”: Bizet for dummies

«Le mystère Carmen»: Bizet pour les nuls

Photo: Yves Renaud
Marie-Josée Lord and Jean-Michel Richer in “The mystery of Carmen”

Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt returns to Montreal to present The mystery of Carmen, but it could also speak of ” the mystery Bizet : the artist, a teenage prodigy who composed a symphony innovative to seventeen-year-old, will become a creator frustrated, stifled by the concessions, unable to please the public or the critics. How this man could it be Carmen, an opera considered to be immoral (Carmen is an independent woman, beguiling, who refuses to accept social norms), and challenging the artistic conventions of the time (starting with the refusal of a happy ending, when it shall be played at the Opéra-Comique) ?

The show looks like a conference where Schmitt, narrator and benevolent teacher, exposes the life of Bizet, praises its artistic merit, and contextualise the works. Before arriving at Carmen, they take good care to offer a selection of the composer : first, the early works (here, an excerpt from his Symphony in c), then the works order (extracts from the Dr Miracle and Djamileh), before hashing out the centerpiece, which is itself presented in a condensed (three or four songs, including love is a bird rebel in its two versions, as the narrator sums up the rest of the action).

To (re)read

Marie-Josée Lord and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt in the workshop of Bizet

In this presentation, Schmitt exalts the art and the condition of the artist with awards, redolent with personal growth : vocation, it is the promise of a rendezvous with oneself ” ; ” what is success for an artist ? Birth of the work beautiful that lies dormant in him ” ; ” We must combat its defects, and to cultivate its qualities “. It recognizes her romantic vision (his fans will say ” naive “, its detractors, and ” cutesy “, the truth is somewhere between the two) of the art, associated with a certain teleology : every work, even poor, has a hint of the great masterpiece to come, it was enough to Bizet’s “meet himself” to get there.

The proposal stage of Lorraine Pintal, she, is minimal : a stage white, round and sloped in the centre of the stage on which there is a piano (side yard), and a curtain of white threads (garden side) to make projections (most of the time illustratrices, as this letter illegible that scrolled while it mentions the correspondence between Bizet and his wife). In this account, the deprivation complete would have been more interesting and would have better served the performers, who carry the show. Even for a novice of the opera (I’m one of them), the extent of the talent of Marie-Josée Lord and Jean-Michel Richer (vocals), and Dominic Boulianne, who accompanies at the piano, is obvious. It is they, more that Schmitt (in spite of his passion undeniable, both for Carmen the work that Carmen, the character), which transmit the genius of Bizet.

These moments are too few in number in The mystery Carmen (especially in the first half), a show clean, nice and comfortable. A show, in short, the opposite of this woman sulfurous which is contrary to the standards of his time, of which we are touts.

The mystery of Carmen

Text : Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Directed by : Lorraine Pintal. The Theatre of the New World from February 26 to march 16, 2019. The show will be on tour in 13 cities in quebec in April and may 2019.