Calixto Bieito’s acclaimed Carmen returns to English National Opera

8th January 2020 in Press

Opens Wednesday 29 January at 7.30pm (10 performances)

Calixto Bieito’s critically praised production of Carmen returns to the London Coliseum this January.

A tale of love, obsession and jealousy, soldier Don José finds himself unable to resist cigarette worker Carmen’s charm, even when he is supposed to be guarding her prison cell. The tumultuous affair that begins between the pair comes to an abrupt halt when Carmen turns her attention to bullfighter Escamillo. Don José’s love for the femme fatale soon turns to jealousy and violence.

Appraised as ’a cogent, gripping piece of work’ (the Guardian), Calixto Bieito’s production transports the story from eighteenth century Seville to the dying days of Franco’s Spain.

Calixto Bieito remains one of the most sought after opera and theatre directors of his generation and is particularly well known for his radical reinterpretations of classic operas and plays. He has previously directed ENO productions of Don Giovanni (2001), A Masked Ball (2002), Fidelio (2013), and The Force of Destiny (2015). His production of Carmen was first staged at ENO in 2012.

One of the most popular operas ever written, Bizet’s Spanish-inflected score bursts with recognisable melodies like Carmen’s seductive ‘Habanera’ and Escamillo’s rousing ‘Toreador Song’. With music inspired by folksongs and Flamenco music, its original premier in 1875 received a lukewarm reception and Bizet died only a few months later, never seeing the success his work would garner.

Justina Gringyté reprises her role as the strong and spirited Carmen. In the role that has become her speciality, the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano ‘commands the stage’ (Evening Standard) in this production. Justina was a Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist from 2011-13, and made her ENO debut as an ‘exceptionally fine’ (The Independent) Maddalena in Christopher Alden’s Rigoletto (2014).

ENO Mackerras Fellow and Guest Music Director of the Teatro São Pedro, Valentina Peleggi conducts. The ENO Mackerras Conducting Fellowship offers the opportunity for exceptional emerging conductors to develop their skills through a two year programme of mentoring. So far at ENO, Valentina has conducted Dido (18/19) and assisted on La bohème (18/19), Akhnaten (18/19) and Orpheus in the Underworld (19/20), conducting several performances of La bohème and Orpheus in the Underworld.

The role of Don José is sung by Sean Panikkar. An American tenor with Sri Lankan heritage, this is Sean’s ENO debut. In his first of two roles at ENO this season, opera-lover favourite and Olivier Award nominee, David Butt Philip will sing the role of Don José for the final two performances.

Exciting British singer Nardus Williams makes her role and house debut as Micaëla. Praised for her ‘superbly controlled, sensuous soprano’ (Opera Today), she is a current ENO Harewood Artist. Nardus was a member of Houston Opera Studio from 2018-2019 and a former Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne. ENO audiences will also see her sing the Countess on the 18 April in Joe Hill-Gibbins’s new production of The Marriage of Figaro.

British baritone Ashley Riches returns to the London Coliseum to sing bullfighter Escamillo. Ashley previously sang the Count in The Marriage of Figaro (2018), and the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (2017).

Keel Watson sings Zuniga, whilst Ellie Laugharne is Frasquita. The remaining roles are sung by ENO Harewood Artists; John Findon, Matthew Durkan and Samantha Price are Remendado, Dancairo and Mercédès respectively. Harwood Artist Alex Otterburn completes this talented cast as Moralès.

Regular ENO staff director Jamie Manton is the revival director. Jamie previously directed ENO Studio Live’s Olivier-nominated production of Paul Bunyan (2018 and 2019). Alfons Flores is the set designer whilst long-time Calixto collaborator Mercè Paloma is the costume designer. Bruno Poet is the lighting designer and the libretto has been translated by Christopher Cowell.

Co-production with Den Norske Opera and Ballet.

Carmen opens Wednesday 29 January 2020 at 19.30 at the London Coliseum for 10 performances: 29 January & 1, 6, 11, 14, 20, 25, 27 February at 19.30. 22 February at 18.15. 8 February at 14.00.

Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee)*

*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings



Notes to Editors:

About English National Opera

English National Opera is the national opera company dedicated to one simple aim: making opera for everyone. We sing in English to be as accessible to the widest possible audience, as well as offering tickets for as little as ten pounds and we create opera that feels different, more theatrical and creatively daring. We’ve been doing this to an internationally recognised standard since being founded in 1931 as Sadler’s Wells Opera.

We are determined to open up the genre: nearly half of our audiences in 2018/19 were first-time bookers. Our learning and participation programme ENO Baylis last year touched the lives of more than 15,000 school children and community groups, and our talent development programme nurtures the careers of singers (the ENO Harewood Artist programme) and conductors (the Charles Mackerras Fellowship). We also give free tickets to Under 18s in our balcony for opening nights, Friday and Saturday performances.

Last year, the percentage of audience members under 44 increased by 13% year-on-year and the proportion of our audience with a black or minority ethnic background increased from 4% to 10%. In January 2019, we announced that we would be recruiting four new members of our Chorus from a BAME background, as well as four BAME Director Observerships.

Our ongoing support and development of British talent meant 80% of the cast in the 2017-18 season were British or British trained. That’s important to us and is fundamental to our ethos of giving new talent their break.

ENO is about opera for everyone.



Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée

Director, Calixto Bieito
Revival Director, Jamie Manton
Conductor, Valentina Peleggi


Carmen Justina Gringyté
Don José Sean Panikkar
Don José (Feb 25 &27) David Butt Philip
Escamillo Ashley Riches
Micaëla Nardus Williams*
Zuniga Keel Watson
Moralès Alex Otterburn*
Frasquita Ellie Laugharne
Mercédès Samantha Price*
Dancairo Matthew Durkan*
Remendado John Findon*