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The Royal Opera's classic production of Bizet's much-loved opera returns with a host of international stars, including Anita Rachvelishvili, Elena Maximova, Bryan Hymel, Yonghoon Lee and Jonas Kaufmann. Carmen is the most popular work from French composer Georges Bizet. For this, his 17th and last opera, Bizet took inspiration from the popular novella by Prosper Merimee, which had enticed French readers with exotic tales of Spain. Its heady combination of passion, sensuality and violence initially proved too much for the stage and the opera was a critical failure on its premiere in 1875. Bizet died shortly after, and never learned of the spectacular success Carmen would achieve. Popular around the world, the opera has been performed more than five hundred times at Covent Garden alone. The opera contains many much-loved numbers, such as Carmen's seductive Habanera and Escamillo's rousing Toreador Song, in which he celebrates the thrill of the bullfight. In Francesca Zambell's 2006 production for The Royal Opera, richly coloured designs by Tanya McCallin capture the sultry heat of the Spanish sun, while ranks of soldiers, crowds of peasants, gypsies and bullfighters bring 19th-century Seville to life.