Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes Carmen

The original cast of Star Trek, the crew of the starship Enterprise, in 1966
The original cast of Star Trek, the crew of the starship Enterprise, in 1966


I don’t know about you, but personally, I have mixed feelings about reruns.

On one hand, I will never tire of seeing of watching the original Star Trek, which ran for 79 episodes spread over three seasons, from 1966 to 1969. I have seen every one of those 79 episodes so many times that I can – no exaggeration – speak the dialogue along with the actors. Why my infatuation with this show, and why am I willing to revisit – over and over again – these manyepisodes?

Perhaps it’s because I associate the show with my childhood and the “race to the moon” that so galvanized us all in the 1960s; perhaps it’s because the show was then so fabulously camp and today so magnificently retro; whatever: it was a vision of the future with actors and stories of which I never seemed to tire.

And yet, on the other hand, I often dislike and avoid reruns. I’m not talking about the life-preserving flight from reruns of such bottom-dwelling shows as The Beverly Hillbillies; Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and Gilligan’s Island, but rather, reruns of stuff I loved the first time around. For example, Garry Trudeau’s editorial comic strip, Doonesbury. I have been an avid reader of Doonesburysince the fall of 1972. Sadly, even tragically, in February 2014, Doonesburyceased being a daily strip, and began appearing only on Sundays. (To this day, the first part of our Sunday paper I read is my precious Doonesbury.)

On March 3, 2014, our local newspaper – the San Francisco Chronicle – began running “flashbacks” – reruns – of earlier Doonesbury strips from Monday through Saturday (which it continues to do to this day). Much as I adore Gary Trudeau and his strip, I cannot bring myself to read these reruns. It’s not as if I actually remember the strips that are being rerun, which I don’t. Perhaps my unwillingness to read the “flashbacks” is that the originals were subtly but inextricably tied to current events and are therefore, today, no longer relevant. Perhaps it’s because I find earlier incarnations of Doonesbury’s characters, characters that have grown and evolved over the 40-plus years I’ve been following the strip, disquieting. Again, for whatever reason(s), I can’t bring myself read Doonesbury reruns.

I think that when it comes to reruns, what’s important to me is that they are still, in some way or another, relevant and appropriate to today.

Today’s Post

As I think you have already guessed, today’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post is a modified rerun. I am ordinarily loath to do such a thing lest I be considered lazy. But given yesterday’s Music History Monday post was about Charles Bizet’s brilliant Symphony in C (composed when he was just 17), and given that for the better part of a century Bizet (1838-1875) was (wrongly) considered a one-hit wonder, and given that that “one hit” was his opera Carmen, well, the relevant and appropriate post for today would be one dealing with Bizet’s Carmen. And since Carmen remains the most frequently produced and, presumably, the best-known and most “popular” opera in the repertoire, it occurs to me that you hardly need me to rehash the story of the opera itself. But Carlos Saura’s spectacular flamenco version of the opera? Ah: there’s a version that deserves our attention and even our love.

In the spirit of touching all my bases, I would quickly offer up two prescriptions for the traditional version the opera before we take our deep dive into Carlos Saura’s flamenco fantasy version of Carmen.

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