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The libretto, by Henri Meilac and Ludovic Halevy, is based on a novella by Prosper Merimee. The first performance of Carmen on 3 March 1875, produced such a hostile reaction that Bizet left Paris physically and psychologically ill, and died only three months later on 3 June 1875, following two serious heart attacks. The massive scandal of the premiere may have been partially the result of Bizet's attempt to reform the Opera Comique genre, yet it must still be said that Carmen is operatic history's most famous example of a failure being corrected by the passage of time: Carmen is now one of the most frequently performed operas in the world.
The major Spanish actress and producer Nuria Espert was brought in for the production at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1991, while the authentic Flamenco choreography comes from Cristina Hoyos and is danced by, among others, Juan Ortego. For the musical side of this successful production Zubin Mehta had top vocalists at his disposal to perform the roles of Carmen, Don Jose and Escamillo.