238
238
Bizet, Georges
FOUR ELABORATELY HAND-COLOURED LITHOGRAPHS ILLUSTRATING THE ORIGINAL SET DESIGNS FOR THE FIRST PRODUCTION OF BIZET'S "CARMEN.", WITHIN THE PUBLISHER'S PRINTED TITLE-WRAPPERS, PARIS: CHOUDENS, 1875:
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238
Bizet, Georges
FOUR ELABORATELY HAND-COLOURED LITHOGRAPHS ILLUSTRATING THE ORIGINAL SET DESIGNS FOR THE FIRST PRODUCTION OF BIZET'S "CARMEN.", WITHIN THE PUBLISHER'S PRINTED TITLE-WRAPPERS, PARIS: CHOUDENS, 1875:
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Details & Cataloguing

Music, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental Books

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Bizet, Georges
FOUR ELABORATELY HAND-COLOURED LITHOGRAPHS ILLUSTRATING THE ORIGINAL SET DESIGNS FOR THE FIRST PRODUCTION OF BIZET'S "CARMEN.", WITHIN THE PUBLISHER'S PRINTED TITLE-WRAPPERS, PARIS: CHOUDENS, 1875:
Théâtre de l'Opéra comique. Carmen Opéra comique en 4 Actes. de la Nouvelle de Prosper Mérimée, Poème de H. Meilhac & L. Halévy, Musique de Georges Bizet, [Paris Choudens père et fils, 30 Boulevard des Capucines]: the imprint on a label affixed to the cover, containing the instruction "N.B. Aussitôt après la première représentation nous renvoyer par poste franco ce Modèle des Décors")

The four coloured lithographs depict the scenery for each act, as described in the libretto and Choudens's staging manual [translations]:

Act 1: "A square in Seville. On the right, the door of a tobacco factory. At the back, facing the audience, a working bridge whose entire length crosses the stage...Carmen goes straight to Don José, who pays no attention to her"  

Act 2: "The tavern of Lillas Pastia. Tables to the right and left...At the extreme left, two guitarists seated on the ground...Carmen is in front of the [left-hand] table, the lieutenant [José] to her left"  

Act 3: "The curtain opens on some rocks...a scene picturesque and wild...Frasquita and Mercedes move downstage to the forestage...Carmen, who has been watching the [card-]game of the other Gypsies a bit over her shoulder, comes to the left of the forestage, draws up a pack that is near the group of men and moves to the card layout"

Act 4: "A plaza in Seville. At the back of the theatre the walls of an old bullring. The entrance to the ring is closed by a long awning. It is the day of the bullfight...the entrance of Escamillo from the left into the arena; Carmen is with Frasquita and Mercedes at right centre..."

oblong 4to (c.27 x 35cm), 4 lithographs depicting each of the four acts of Bizet's opera, 25.8 x 18.8 cm, mounted to larger sheets, the last two signed "A[uguste] Lamy"


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Literature

Evan Baker, 'The Scene Designs for the First Performances of Bizet's Carmen', in 19th-Century Music, 13 (1990), 231-242. Baker, From the Score to the Stage. An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging (2013), Nr. 110, p. 229 and also The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992), i, 736 (for Act 1) and iii, 694 (Choudens's poster based on the Act 4 scene design: also in TNG, 18, 483)

Catalogue Note

THE FOUR SET DESIGNS FOR THE ORIGINAL PRODUCTION OF "CARMEN", as issued by Bizet's publisher to provincial opera houses.

VERY RARE. The original drawings are lost and these coloured lithographs of them were, until relatively recently, completely unknown.  A copy was discovered by Evan Baker in the archives of Choudens, who published the vocal score of Carmen, and described by him in a scholarly article in 19th-Century Music in 1990. Until then there was no well-attested iconographical documentation for one of the most famous productions in the history of opera.  Other production materials appear to have been destroyed in a fire at the Opéra-Comique in 1887.

These printed stage designs are rare, because they were never produced for general sale, unlike costume designs. Antoine Choudens sent copies like this to provincial opera houses that hired the music, along with the staging manual as part of the rental package. The note on the label affixed to the top of the title page makes clear that, directly after the first performance, the designs should be sent back to the publisher.  Sotheby's thanks Dr Baker for the information that a single institutional copy of the set survives in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Département Arts du Spectacle. We have traced no copies of these designs in auction records. 

Music, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental Books

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