Carmen Credit: Lynn Lane

In a press release for Carmen, Lyric general director, president, and CEO Anthony Freud says the company’s intention is to present this most popular of all operas with “the energy the piece had when it was new.” That’ll be tough, because the promiscuous title character was a shocker to audiences when the work premiered in 1875. What is sure to still fascinate, however, are her fierce independence and Bizet’s melodic score. This new-to-Chicago production, directed by Rob Ashford, transports the action to the 20th century, ramps up the gypsy dancing, and is double cast in the major roles: Ekaterina Gubanova and Joseph Calleja play the seductress and her jealous lover, respectively, in the first five performances, Anita Rachvelishvili and Brandon Jovanovich in the final six. Even the conductor flips: on March 6 Harry Bicket hands the reins over to Ainars Rubikis, who’ll helm the work through the conclusion of its run on March 25.   v