The Truth with big T has always been elusive. Carmen by Georges Bizet was first a novel by Prosper Merimée. Maybe it is even true that the story of Carmen was told to Merimée by the real Don José. Would that mean that Merimée's Carmen was the true story of Carmen. How would we know what is the truth here? Don José could have lied about little things or big things, or maybe just believing in his ignorance that he knew more than he did. Lying by omission is common and lying by telling the truth as one believe it is and yet be mistaken. Merimée would as he adapted the story as a novel (or novella) could change bit and pieces as authors do. The knowledge that Prosper Merimée had on Spain and of the Spanish Gitanas, was that true facts or just what was at the time believed to be true. Merimée was no Spaniard. Did he need to be Spanish? Georges Bizet, the composer of Carmen, was French as Merimée. An Opera will never be exactly like the novel, theatre, poem or movie that it comes from. The libretto was by Meilhac and Halèvy. The music by Georges Bizet. The opera first comes when the libretto and music comes together. That is the easy way of telling it. The process of making an opera is usuay far more complex, a friendly or unfriendly cooperation that often threaten to make the creators going mad.
So the opera Carmen is made. Then comes the creation of what is truly an opera, and that is the staged production of the opera. Otherwise CD's was enough. DVD of a staged production is more like the real thing. Carmen, the opera, is so alive and true for me that CARMEN is Spain and my understanding of the real Gitanas and Spanish women is based on Carmen, the character in this opera . I have been to Spain. I have seen Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, but still not been to Sevilla. I love Spain because of Carmen and I dream of going to Sevilla and to see Andalucia because of Carmen. This seems all very well. Except that the idea of Spain based on any opera or something like that is a lie or rather an untruth. Spain is happy to have a great tourist industry and Carmen fuels that. It is the exotism of Spain and the Gitanas that can be harmful.
Here comes the Regie. For me the right way is to look at the opera mostly and mostly ditch the source. Verdi's Don Carlos comes from Schiller's play which is based on true Spanish history. Schiller made his choices caring not overmuch about historical facts. The opera goes another step. The Regie has to match the opera, historical facts goes to the programmheft.
The Opera needs to be truthful to the opera that is written. How historial true does it need to be? Analyze the text and the score to understand if an updating can be done without hurting the core of the opera. Do not let people sing sword and then use a revolver. I wish people did not thing booing means did they did it right. Usually it is not a sign that you are a genious.