'Carmen' Abroad

Detail of illustration from 'Album Rose', an illustrated comedy album based on Bizet's Carmen
Carmen Abroad investigates how the 'myth' of the Carmen story became a worldwide phenomenon through Bizet's famed opera.

How was the story interpreted all over the world: in Northern countries, and in Spain itself? In countries which hardly had orchestras of the appropriate size? How was it translated, adapted and staged? What emphases were put on the opera’s major themes: of racial difference, sexual mores, gender issues? And how did it go down differently around the world with its undertones of violence, its exploration of sexual relations, and its murder on stage? The simple answer is rather well, but there are so many nuances in the history of its production around the world to make its performances and reception an issue of interest.

The project grew out of a feasibility study for a new edition of Bizet's opera commissioned by Edition Peters, a major music publisher centred in Leipzig, London and New York, which was funded by the Peter Moores Foundation. The outcome was a performing edition based on how the opera was first performed, both musically and dramatically. Extracts from the original staging manuals are a unique aspect of this edition. It was decided to coin a new term for its approach: a Performance Urtext, ie an edition which captured not only how the opera was first played, but—to some extent—how it was staged. 

The new edition is based on a detailed study of the score used for the first run of performances at the Paris Opéra-Comique. The score has been used for runs of performances at the Châtelet and the Opéra-Comique in Paris (Minkowski and Gardiner respectively) and, among many other productions, has been used for a commercial DVD by Gardiner and the Orchestre Romantique et Révolutionnaire capturing the Opéra-Comique run.

The current project builds upon this edition, and a two-day international conference of invited contributors allied to the 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World competition, which have evolved into a continually updated website. 

The RMA/Cambridge University Press awarded Richard Langham Smith (RCM) and Clair Rowden (Cardiff University) the Outstanding Edited Collection Book Prize for 2021 for their edited collection, Carmen Abroad: Bizet’s Opera on the Global Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

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Project team

Clair Rowden (Cardiff University)

Richard Langham Smith

Project outputs


Smith, R. L. (2021) Bizet's Carmen uncovered. Boydell & Brewer, Martlesham, Suffolk. ISBN 9781783275250 (hardback) 9781787449213 (e-book) 9781800100466 (e-book)

Smith, R. L. and Rowden, C., eds. (2020) Carmen abroad: Bizet's opera on the global stage. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9781108481618 (hardback) 9781108674515 (e-book).

Awarded the RMA/Cambridge University Press Outstanding Edited Collection Book Prize for 2021 21 contributors detailed the presentation of Carmen; its performances, reception  and other pertinent issues, throughout the world, including: France (Paris: Michela Niccolai, Provinces: Clair Rowden); Brittany and Ireland (Jennifer Millar and Linda Buckley); Open-air productions with bullfights (Sabine Teulon Lardic); Belgium (Bruno Forment); Vienna (Laura Möckli); Italy (Matthew Franke); USA (Kristen Turner), (New Orleans: Charlotte Bentley); Latin America (José Manuel Izquierdo, Jaime Cortés Polania and Juan Francisco Sans); Portugal and Brazil (David Cranmer); Australia: (Kerry Murphy); United Kingdom (Paul Rodmell); Germany (Nicole K Strohmann); Czechoslovakia: (Martin Nedbal); Poland: (Renata Suchowiejko); Scandinavia: (Ulla-Britta Broman-Kananen); Russia (Michelle Assay) and Japan (Naomi Matsumoto). 


The project website (supported by the Royal College of Music) contains a wealth of information and resources, including:

  • Details of the performance urtext
  • A timeline and interactive map showing Carmen's production history
  • A gallery of historical images relating to performances and printed editions

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