Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” premiered in 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The four-act opera, featuring a libretto written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy and adapted from the novella by Prosper Mérimée, remains one of the most exciting and popular works in the repertoire.

And now, nearly 150 years later, the story of “Carmen” is once again being adapted — this time as “Carmen: The Graphic Novel.” Written by opera singer and director Alek Shrader; illustrated by artist P. Craig Russell and Aneke; and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Arizona Opera launched a Kickstarter campaign in March for this ambitious adaptation and reached its $20,000 goal by the end of the month.

“Throughout the pandemic, our company has constantly pursued novel approaches to connecting people through opera, when people need art and meaning the most,” said Joseph Specter, Arizona Opera’s president and general director. “‘Carmen: The Graphic Novel’ represents an amazing opportunity to extend that focus on innovation, impact, and community.”

‘Carmen’ remains one of the most frequently performed operas for good reason, said Shrader, for whom the graphic novel is a passion project.

“Themes that were fashionable in Bizet’s day still captivate audiences. There’s a power struggle between the sexes, a meditation on the question of freedom versus fate, and a stark contrast between the exotic Roma lifestyle and a repressed society. And, of course, everything is set to some of the most gorgeous and tuneful music in all of opera.”

The novel’s development originated through Arizona Opera’s OnPitch Business Challenge, created in association with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Those who love “Carmen,” but are new to comics can appreciate the storytelling on the page. Those who are comics fans but are new to opera, “here’s a book that practically sings,” Shrader shared.

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