Two internationally-acclaimed singers who have settled in the locality will  help launch Haslemere Musical Society’s (HMS) centenary year celebrations.

Grammy award-winning soprano Janice Watson sings  the title role with tenor Philip O’Brien as Don Jose in HMS’s concert performance of Bizet’s sizzling opera Carmen, at Haslemere Hall on Saturday, March 4.

Bizet composed Carmen in 1874, scandalising audiences at the time. He died the following year so never knew what a phenomenon this tale of seduction and betrayal would become.

HMS last performed extracts from Carmen in 2012. This time it will span both halves of the evening.

In an opera house, a full performance of Carmen lasts two and a half hours. For this concert performance – meaning that Carmen is sung like a normal choral work without costumes or scenery, and with chorus on stage throughout – HMS’ musical director James Ross has carefully omitted some sections without affecting the story’s dramatic arc or losing any of the rousing choruses and spine-tingling arias and duets.

Janice Watson shot to prominence after winning the Kathleen Ferrier Award and has sung at the world’s major opera houses, including Covent Garden, Sydney, the Met in New York, Paris and Milan. 

Philip O’Brien has sung at Covent Garden, ENO, Glyndebourne and across Europe. He now concentrates with his wife Amanda on running Haslemere Singing Studio and Imagine That Productions – both a staple of the local arts community.  

HMS has a large canon of oratorio experience,  but decided to perform larger-scale operatic works only two seasons ago. 

Chairman Marion Bagshaw said: “Centenary ideas were to include some old favourites from our previous repertoire. 

“With Carmen, the orchestration is not too huge,  which suits us and the size of the hall. We also wanted something popular, to showcase our fabulous soloists. 

“It’s very exciting that such high-calibre performers have become involved in local musical life, especially in this landmark year for HMS.”

Two short Spanish orchestral pieces – De Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance and Granados’ Intermezzo from Goyescas – set the scene at the start of the concert. Tickets from Haslemere Hall box office, 01428 642161, or the hall’s website.