Salvador Tavora's internationally acclaimed version of Carmen returns to the UK - for the second time this year - to perform at three venues only ahead of an extensive nationwide tour in spring 2003. The flamenco-inspired production opens tonight (23 October) at The Lowry in Salford, where it sold out this past March, and continues to 9 November to Glasgow and High Wycombe.

Tavora's spectacle of dance and music offers a radical challenge to Bizet's famous opera, which was based on the novel by Prosper Merimee. Rather than the traditional romanticised version, Tavora presents Carmen as a woman of great character whose fight for women's rights made her a symbol of daring and dignity.

Based on stories told to him by his great-great-great grandmother - herself a cigarette worker in 19th-century Seville - Tavora's production combines Andalusian music and dance to tell the story of Carmen de Triana. The gypsy heroine of exploited factory workers, Carmen had been a real-life friend of Tavora's ancestor.

Born in Seville, Tavora grew up in a working class family during the difficult era following the Spanish Civil War. He worked as a bullfighter and flamenco singer before, in 1971, he created La Cuadra de sevilla in an attempt to counter what he saw as a dilution of Andalusian culture. Since then, Tavora's company has produced more than a dozen shows, seen at more than 150 festivals in 36 countries, with each reflecting the social issues and cultural traditions of his native land.

Carmen is performed by a company of more than 30 singers, flamenco dancers and Andalusian musicians. They share the stage with a white stallion, which has won its own individual raves for its dancing prowess.

- by Terri Paddock