A music teacher called François Borne (1840 – 1920) went to see the opera Carmen and afterwards wrote a brilliant fantasy for flute based on its musical themes. My flute teacher suggested that I practice it during the summer holidays, but she also suggested I make a point of seeing the opera; there are plenty of options on YouTube, or DVD. As it happens I watched it twice; it was transmitted on France3 television with helpful subtitles, but there was also a live performance shortly afterwards at a nearby village. I went to the dress rehearsal, being unable to make the official performance.
The performance was excellent, and a was communal effort. The cast and support team of some 96 people were put up in local houses, and transported to and fro by volunteers. The event was held in the grounds of a chateau and had an atmosphere all of its own. For example, the opera calls for a bell to announce the shutting of the cigarette factory where Carmen works, and the little bell that you can just about see on top of the chateau roof played this part.
The entire event was in the open air, a risky business. One earlier rehearsal was interrupted by rain, since the orchestra couldn't play. You don't want violins getting wet. But the rain stayed away from the dress rehearsal and the performance.
Apparently, the owner of the chateau wants to make it a centre for performance arts, so I am looking forward to other similar events in future.
No event like this goes without a hitch. I am told that the guy originally playing Don José had a heart attack on the way to the rehearsal (he is OK) and a last-minute sub (who in the event was a singer of international renown) had to be found. A performer, feigning being woken up with a start, knocked over a candelabra, which called for some creative extinguishing of candles (not a beat was missed).
The conductor was good, too. At a couple of places, where the singers were just a tiny bit out of synch with the orchestra, he signalled quite clearly, mouthing the words, and emphasising the beat, telling them exactly where they should be.
It was all excellent.
Update: I discovered that the last-minute sub was Philippe Do. I am told that he is a friend of the lady who played Carmen, and that she got him to cut short his holiday in Greece to come and sing on no notice whatsoever - that is, she called him in the morning and he was there the same evening for the dress rehearsal.
There were 1300 paying customers on the night - exceeding all expectations.