Russian Carmens and 'Carmenism': From Imperial Import to Ideological Benchmark

Michelle Assay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Despite mixed reactions to the first performance of Carmen on the Russian stage in Saint Petersburg in 1878, it rapidly became an indispensable part of the country’s operatic repertoire. Its alleged references to Aleksandr Pushkin’s 1824 narrative poem The Gypsies and the similarities between Bizet’s and Pushkin’s central characters meant that, for Russian audiences, Carmen felt as familiar as she was subversive. For Tchaikovsky, the opera became almost an obsession, while for the symbolist painters and poets of the Russian Silver Age, such as Mikhail Vrubel and Aleksandr Blok, the title-character represented, alongside and in complementary opposition to Shakespeare’s Ophelia, the idealised eternal feminine as much as the exotic other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCarmen Abroad
Subtitle of host publicationBizet's Opera on the Global Stage
EditorsRichard Langham Smith, Clair Rowden
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781108674515
ISBN (Print)9781108481618
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2020


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