Tonight we started working on a concert version of Bizet’s Carmen. It’s a Spanish tale, sung in French by an American Choir, conducted by a Russian. It will be a real international affair with all the songs you know by heart.
Of course, I know very different words to these tunes. My knowledge of Carmen is tainted by Season Three, Episode 72 of Gilligan’s Island. In this episode, Broadway producer Harold Hecuba seeks refuge on the island, but the castaways try to coax him back to civilization by staging a musical version of Hamlet, sung to Bizet’s melodies. The "Toreador Song" now becomes "Neither a borrower mor a lender be," and Carmens lovely aria becomes "I ask to be, or not to be. That is the question that I ask of thee."
According to Harold Altman in describing an upcoming performance of Carmen by the Opera Company of Philadelphia,
"The Producer" is one of those chicken-and-egg conjunctions of classical and pop cultures. The beauty of the original work made the sitcom a success, and the sitcom did what Warner Brothers’ cartoons did for classical and jazz. It made opera — often considered the stuffiest of musical forms — not only accessible, but an important part of the cultural lives of millions.
Somehow, before April 19, I’ll figure out some way to forget the Gilligan’s Island lyrics and learn the French. Now, if I can somehow figure out how to follow Tchizvel’s thick Russian accent…