FORGET about your last holiday on the Costas, the hottest love story in Spain happened over 100 years ago.

Immoral was how the critics described Georges Bizet's last opera, Carmen, when it first opened, but that was back in 1875 and the world has changed a little since then. What hasn't altered is the passion, intensity and excitement of this heady drama.

Carmen is often described as the heroine of opera, she is feisty, independent and knows a thing or two about love and desire. The tempestuous gypsy who works in a cigarette factory in Seville wins the heart of a corporal called Don Jose who rescues her from a brawl then abandons his career and his childhood sweetheart to follow her. But the wicked woman soon tires of him and turns her attentions to a toreador.

Carmen is just one of three operas being staged by the Welsh National Opera which is returning to Southampton's Mayflower this month. Two new productions of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades and Gluck's Opheus & Eurydice make their debut.

The Queen of Spades has been described as chilling and moving as it tells a story of greed and destruction. Herman is an obsessive gambler who decides that nothing will, not even tragedy and death.

Orpheus & Eurydice is based on the Greek myth and is a heart-rending tale of Orpheus and his quest to retrieve his dead wife Eurydice from the underworld.

The Welsh National Opera has established a national and international reputation for the quality of its productions that are said to take opera from an elitist art form and turn it into a great night out.

The Welsh National Opera opens its season at the Mayflower with Carmen on Tuesday, October 24. For ticket details call the box office on (023) 8071 1811.