In putting together my recent feature on Goran Bregovic, I’ve really re-discovered and re-embraced my own musical heritage; my father was a professional musician who, though trained at the Conservatory in Pecs, had a real love and hunger for the music of the gypsies -a passion not unlike Bregovic’s, come to think of it. And in the beginning he suffered the same kind of criticism and harshness too, constantly being raked over the coals for choosing “a gypsy job.” But his love for the artform remained undiminished, and it’s what drove he and my mother together.
Their shared passion for music translated into my mother taking me to my first opera, Carmen, at the tender age of four. Talk about a whirlwind for my four-year-old eyes. I don’t think I understood the story very well but I know I loved the colour and vibrancy of the music. Bizet’s work has steadfastly remained a favourite through the years. I’ve seen at least thirty different productions of it all over the world, and most recently saw a ballet version by the National Ballet for Luminato.
So imagine my surprise -and delight -when I discovered Bregovic had composed something called Karmen (with a happy end). You mean my lovely Spanish lady doesn’t get what most men (and women) at the time deemed she deserved? Yay!
While it’s strange to see Carmen stripped of the trappings I’m used to -namely guitars, flamenco, and violins -I have to admit that I’m enjoying the re-envisioning of the piece that was my portal into the world of not only culture -but my own personal heritage. With my father’s passing last year, hearing and seeing this kind of riotous, joyful, deeply dramatic work has taken on a new importance and meaning. And listening to Bregovic’s work -including his Karmen music -is a gorgeous sort of homecoming.