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The myth of the free, independent woman

"One word is very important in Carmen: freedom," says director Lotte de Beer. "It's about a working-class woman who wants to be free. Unfortunately, she is stuck in a 19th century opera." An opportunity for us to talk to Lotte de Beer and singer Katia Ledoux about their approaches to this opera. 

"One does not kill out of love"
"One does not kill out of love"

Carmen as an independent woman who breaks all shackles - is this image really true?

Lotte de Beer: Is Carmen really the free, independent woman we think she is, or is she rather the prisoner of the myth of the free, independent woman? Isn't it the men in particular who attribute this independence to her so that her conquest is all the more rewarding? These are the questions that concern me about this character.

Katia, how do you deal with a female character like Carmen, who is murdered at the end?

Katia Ledoux: A topic that is unfortunately still incredibly relevant today. I still read about "love drama" or "family tragedy" when men murder women they are in relationships with. These acts are often not even argued as murder, but as manslaughter, because the poor man had to go through so much emotionally. In line with this idea, there are still productions of Carmen today that take pity on Don José and demean Carmen as a witch or she-devil. Yet she is just a woman who loves life and love.

Who are the men to you, Lotte? What do they actually want from Carmen?

Lotte de Beer: The men act out of different motives: the first wants a night with her and believes he is more entitled than his subordinate. The second wants to seduce and tame her - as if to say: I love a free woman who gives up her freedom for me. And the third wants to rescue her and free her from the clutches of the conquerors. But to what end? ... It's not surprising that in the end she doesn't feel taken seriously by any of the three.

Katia, how do you feel when you take on characters that were created in the 19th century and offer completely different images of women?

Katia Ledoux: I often have to ask myself this question, but not with Carmen. All the issues she deals with are still relevant today, from the racism she experiences because of her darker skin and eyes to police violence. And it's all set to stirring music and many of the very greatest hits ever composed. Carmen is one of the most performed operas of all time and yet I think the riches it holds are still underestimated. I LOVE this opera!