THE highly acclaimed Russian State Opera returns to Basildon this month, with one of Bizet's most popular pieces, Carmen.

Featuring an impressive cast and accompanied by a large live orchestra with over 30 musicians, you are invited to "feel the thrill and passion of love, jealousy and violence of 19th Century Seville".

Carmen's mix of passion, gorgeous melodies, dramatic confrontations and musical wit has found favour all over the world almost since its first performance in 1875.

It tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by Carmen, a free-spirited femme fatale. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo.

The music of Carmen has been widely acclaimed for its brilliance of melody, harmony, atmosphere and orchestration, and for the skill with which Bizet musically represented the emotions and suffering of his characters.

The Toreador Song is among the best known of all operatic arias.

The rich and colourful vigour of the gypsies’ scenes will have you on the edge of your seat, and the vibrancy, enthusiasm and intensity of the performance will reverberate long after the final curtain.

If you’ve never tried opera before, it is said Carmen is the perfect one to cut your teeth on.

Alexej Ignatow, producer of The Russian State Ballet and Opera House caught up with the Echo about the production.

How do you start your day?

I would like to say, like in many interviews or movies, I start my day with a nice cup of coffee and reading a recent newspaper, while listening to classical music… but this would be too obvious and not true. How do I start my day?! It’s a difficult one as the start of the day depends on the time of the season. Today, for example, eight days before the start of our opening season, I woke up at 4am and could not fall back to sleep, so here I am answering questions for an interview. And I am not a morning person at all! In a more relaxed period, when there is still plenty of time before the start of the tour and we are less worried about last minute preparations, it would be more steady start to a day having breakfast with family before everyone disappears in different directions. When we are on tour, then each day and morning is the same. We wake up, have a quick breakfast at the hotel and get on the road to the next theatre.

Echo: Producer - Alexej

What it your favourite Opera?

Here I must admit, I am very conservative and currently enjoy more the mainstream titles. Maybe it is because I heard Puccini’s and Verdi’s masterpieces more often than others, but all these somehow feel more related to me. I enjoy much more the individual takes that one production takes compared to another. The small detail one might not see right away, but suddenly understands in a bit later.

Do you personally get involved in the productions that you bring?

As we do work with established Russian State Theatres, we tend to rely on their vision and ideas. Having said that, we still actively participate and get involved in guiding the theatres when it comes to brand new productions. In the UK, where we tour our productions, the audience appreciates and understand better the more traditional productions. Therefore, it’s very important to us that the visiting theatre is in full awareness of this and fully responds to the needs of the UK public.

How did it all begin and what did you learn from the first tour?

It all began in Autumn 2006, when we brought the Russian Cossacks to the UK for the first time. This was a great learning curve. You can never imagine and account for all the details that can happen when you are physically on tour. The best lesson most likely was to be flexible and be able to quickly adapt to situations!

How long have you been touring the UK and how many productions do you stage every year?

In the UK we have been now for over 11 years. In this period, we organised over 25 tours with ballet and opera, which equals to over 1000 performances. Currently in 2018 we will be performing over 140 performances across the UK.

What are the highlights of the new tour and what can audiences expect?

This season we will have three Opera productions, Carmen, Madama Butterfly and La Traviata. We are excited to work this year with the Mari State Opera and Ballet Theatre. All three operas are eternal opera classics with as its new theatre, audience can expect new costumes and staging. Altogether, it should be a wonderful evening out, beautiful singing and ‘feast for the eye’ set.

What makes you excited about classical music?

Classical music is timeless! When performing operas and ballets, it is always exciting to imagine the time when the music was composed, and how it’s still so relevant and enjoyable today. I don’t think people will ever get tired of listening to classical music.

What is your motto while you go on tour with the cast?

Keep everything simple and ensure that over 80 people for six to ten weeks live like a large and happy family! My motto in life is: 'Whatever is done, is for the better!' If you’ve never tried opera before, you will love this full orchestra experience with brand new settings and fantastic costumes, exquisite singing and those wonderful tunes that the audience will still be humming to themselves on their way home, making this a must-see opera production for everyone.

Carmen comes to the Towngate Theatre in St Martin's Square, Basildon, on September 17.

Call 01268 465465 or visit for booking.