The Edition Peters Urtext vocal score of Carmen was published in 2014, edited by Richard Langham Smith and Clair Rowden. The edition is unique in its consideration of both staged spectacle and musical text, creating a ‘performance Urtext’ that draws on four principal sources, two musical (one published and one manuscript) and two dealing with staging.
With its focus on performance traditions, the edition provides an authoritative and confident basis to underpin new performances, and despite the ‘urtext’ label, becomes a living document which is put to work by music and theatre professionals in many different ways.
Those professionals praise the legibility of the edition, avoiding the hindrance of unwieldy scholarly editions where all available materials are included but never performed. Nevertheless, the vocal score provides all original dialogues and prioritises the original French sung text, unlike the other Urtext edition available (Alkor).
The videos presented on this page are interviews conducted by Clair Rowden in Spring 2018 with numerous professionals – a director, a composer, a singer, a French coach – who testify to the ways in which they used the Peters edition and how it impacted upon their professional practice.
Composer Stephen McNeff speaks about his 2014 adaptation of Carmen published by Peters Edition, for MidWales Opera, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury and directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. At that time, McNeff worked in close collaboration with Richard Langham Smith (‘Dick’ as referred to in the video). The production also commissioned a new translation of the libretto by Rory Bremner.
Pierre-Maurice Barlier spoke to Clair Rowden about his work as a French coach, on productions of Carmen in opera houses (Welsh National Opera, 2014, new production 2019; The Grange Festival, 2017), and gave insights into his professional practice in one-to-one coaching sessions with Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Mirouslava Yordanova, accompanied by coach Julian Smith, and how the Peters score changes the way he works.
Some examples he refers to are the detailed stage directions absent from other score editions and the inclusion of the full dialogue, both elements crucial for the recreation of character motivation on stage.
The dialogue becomes of particular interest as Mirouslava Yordanova is preparing to sing the opera in its version with recitatives which replace the dialogue of the original Opéra-Comique version. Recourse to the dialogues in the Peters ‘performance Urtext’ score becomes imperative therefore in order to create a sense of continuity of interpretation and characterisation which the recitatives (composed by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet’s untimely death) cannot render.