CARMEN - Georges BIZET
Carmen, Bizet's four-act Opera, was based on the novel by Prosper Merimee (1803-1870) with a French libretto by Henri Meilhac (1831-1897) and Ludovic Halevy (1834-1908). It was premiered on 3 March 1875 at the Opera Comique in Paris and first performed in the Real Teatro in Malta on 14 March 1881.
Bizet scored the main role of his opera for mezzo-soprano. Interestingly it was first performed in Malta by Ida Cristino who was a soprano. Not surprisingly, the opera was in Italian translation rather than in French. Apart from this being an Italian cast, few people in the audience would have understood French and all were familiar with the Italian language.
The two libretti printed in Malta, both undated, probably date from the 1880s. One is in English, the other in Italian. This catered for the British audience, as well as the Maltese who for the most part prided themselves on their Italian culture.
Maltese synopsis, translations of operas, and even plays based on the subject also began to appear with the production of each opera. The Maltese people of different strata of society thereby also became familiar with opera.
I wish to add a link to a project and publication that traces the performances of Carmen around the world and explores the ways each was adapted to cater for its own audience. Makes interesting reading!
Curators: Clair Rowden, Richard Langham Smith.
You can also listen in to a discussion on the subject from the University of Southampton, on the 'Music at Southampton' Facebook page:
See Alfred G. Miceli, L-Istorja tal-Opra f'Malta (1866-2000), pp.66-67