Carmen i Ultima Thule: fyra nordiska tolkningar av en spansk zigenerska under sent 1800-tal


  • Ulla-Britta Broman-Kananen


Carmen (composed by Georges Bizet) had its Nordic première at the Royal Swedish Theatre in Stockholm in 1878, only three years after its first performance at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. Olefine Moe-Torssell (1850–1933), a relatively high soprano, sung the role in Stockholm, thus becoming the first Carmen in Norden. Thirteen years later the opera had already been staged all over the Nordic countries: in Denmark (1887) with the young female singer Elisabeth Dons (1864–1942) in Carmen’s role, in Finland (1889) with Emma Engdahl (1852–1930) in the title role, and in Norway (1891) with the expressive singer Gina Oselio (Ingeborg Aas, 1858–1937) as Carmen.

In my article, I argue that Carmen arrived in Norden in the middle of an artistic paradigm shift, which manifested itself as a public polemic between advocates for a conservative aesthetic idealism, and those defending new and modern art movements, such as realism and naturalism. A main concern among the debaters was how the woman and especially the changed behaviour of the modern woman should be represented in art. As a realistic opera with a female character who neither sacrifices herself nor dies for love, Carmen can be construed as one comment on this debate, whether this was the authors’ intention or not.

My analysis reveals that since Carmen could never be linked to the traditional chain of self-sacrificing female characters, most newspaper critics, as well as the singer Gina Oselio, turned to the reverse formula: if a female character could not be idealised, she should be demonised (Moi 2006). Hence the Nordic critics unanimously defined Carmen as a femme fatale who destroys the innocent Don José, the actual hero of the opera.






Broman-Kananen, U.-B. (2020). Carmen i Ultima Thule: fyra nordiska tolkningar av en spansk zigenerska under sent 1800-tal. Musiikki, 48(3–4), 9–35. Noudettu osoitteesta