Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Peter Brook’s "The Tragedy of Carmen" Coming to BW Feb. 25-28

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 2:33 PM

click to enlarge carmen-brook.jpg
By Daniel Hathaway 

George Bizet’s Carmen regularly appears in lists of the top ten operas performed across the globe, but like Handel’s Messiah, there’s no definitive version of the piece. The score of Carmen has been touched by many hands since its Paris premiere in 1875, as it has evolved from a comic opera with spoken dialogue to a grand opera with sung recitatives.

The most radical version of the work, Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, which premiered at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York in 1981, reduces Bizet’s four acts lasting about 2-½ hours to one act lasting 85 minutes. Brook also stripped out the chorus, reduced the orchestra to 14 players, and cut many of the original elements from the score.

BW Opera Theater will present Brook’s The Tragedy of Carmen in the Robert Allman Theater on BW’s Berea campus from February 25 to 28, with evening performances running from Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 pm, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. The production will be directed by Victoria Bussert, BW’s director of musical theater. We reached her by phone to get her take on the Peter Brooks version of the show.

“I wouldn’t call it a condensing of Carmen. I’d call it a re-imagining,” she said. “I was fortunate enough that when I was a teenager, my mother took me to see this version at Lincoln Center when Peter Brook brought it over to New York. I can describe in detail very specific moments of that experience that impacted me as a director for the rest of my life. I don’t think I ever took a breath during that production. I just found it extraordinary.”

Beyond Carmen, Bussert has been impressed by Peter Brook’s approach to theater in general. “He is definitely one of my idols. I’m one of those crazy people who sat through all nine hours of his Mahabharata [his 1985 staging of the Indian epic poem] twice in New York. His focus, dedication, and passion for bringing very raw, very true, and yet very theatrical pieces to life are very inspiring to me.

“The Tragedy of Carmen was the first time his theater company in Paris had worked with opera singers. There’s a wonderful video showing different exercises they did in the rehearsal process. I have always loved the times I have directed opera, because I find that singers embrace being treated as actors. Extraordinary things happen vocally because their focus has shifted.” Read the article at

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation