Young Georges Bizet died soon after the premiere of Carmen, and thus never enjoyed the success of his creation. Carmen wasn’t initially well received, but became, and still is, one of the most famous and popular works in the opera repertoire. The stark realism (interjected with comedy) was initially considered “too much” for the opera going public; it is now considered a stroke of Bizet’s genius. During an unusually long rehearsal period, the orchestra complained that the music was too difficult, and the chorus complained that it was too challenging to act like a group of individuals, rather than a homogeneous block responding as a unit. Fortunately, Bizet had allies in the production, and his vision for the opera was realized. Composers ranging from Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky to Verdi and Wagner all expressed admiration for the work. More so than any “celebrity endorsement,” it is the brilliant music that maintains Carmen’s legacy: even complete opera novices will recognize the famous tunes that make up the bulk of this opera. For this production, La Scala has hand-picked some of the hottest new talent in the opera world, including German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott, Italian soprano Adriana Damato, and up-and-coming Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, who won the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition in 2008.