Carmen Opera Review
Carmen is a fiery, independent gipsy woman who lives outside society’s norms. She seduces and destroys Don Jose.
Based on the novel by Prosper Merimee, Georges Bizet’s opera is a sexy, dramatic opera. Though initially unpopular, it is now the world’s third most popular opera. It bridges the tradition of French opera comique and verismo.
In the first act, the scene is set in a square, surrounded by guards and military personnel. Micaela enters, a young peasant, who is searching for her lover Jose. The guards tell her he is not there. She gives him a letter and a kiss from her mother, which he chastely receives.
After this, the gypsies Frasquita and Mercedes sing one of the most famous pieces from the opera. Gypsies always sing about their free, wandering life, and they do so again here, with a chorus that praises the nature of freedom.
A toreador, Escamillo, then enters with a bit of fanfare and sings the famous “Votre toast je peux vous le rendre”. He takes a fancy for Carmen but she rejects his advances. Jose arrives to see the commotion and, in a jealous rage, stabs her. Afterwards, the crowd cheers him. The commotion has convinced everyone but Jose that she is a witch. She tries to convince him she is not, but he still refuses.
Carmen is a gypsy girl who works at a cigarette factory and belongs to a band of nomad smugglers and thieves. She is a rebellious character with an attitude of erotism and love for freedom. Robinson says that she is a symbol of wildness and anarchy, while Don Jose represents order and control.
The soldiers at Lillas Pastia’s club are obsessed with the beautiful Carmen and her dances. But repressed corporal Don José is not interested. When Micaela returns with a letter and kiss from Jose’s mother, he is ready to heed his mother’s advice and return home to marry.
Then a brawl breaks out at the factory between Carmen and another woman, and she injures her. Zuniga orders Jose to tie her up, but she charms him into letting her go and escapes. Then she sings her famous Habanera and seduces the soldiers into following her. As she leads them to her gypsy village, they become enraged at her refusal to obey orders.
When Carmen premiered in Paris in March 1875, it shocked and scandalised audiences with its blatant sexuality, on-stage murder and unflattering depiction of gypsies. Bizet died soon after, but his opera went on to become a mainstay of the opera house. Today, it’s a beloved classic packed with songs you’ll recognize and a dramatic narrative that ticks all the right Romantic opera boxes.
From the whirling habanera to the high-energy Prelude, the music in carmen is unforgettable. And that’s not just because it contains cracking sing-along melodies like “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” and Don Jose’s heart-wrenching Flower Song. The score also paints vivid pictures of character traits with ominous bass drum thumps for Escamillo’s death, sweet and flighty chirping for Carmen’s friends Mercedes and Frasquita, and a portentous ‘fate’ motif that recurs throughout the opera.
The music of Carmen is a mix of traditional French opera and Italian verismo. The most famous songs from this opera are the Toreador Song and Habanera. Both of these pieces feature the castanet, a popular instrument in Spanish culture. These instruments make the opera sound more authentic and capture the spirit of Spain.
The story of the gypsy factory girl who seduces a soldier and his mother’s love for her is timeless. It embodies the complexities and contradictions of human relationships and demonstrates that love is not something to be taken lightly.
The opera premiered in 1875 and shocked the audience. They were not prepared for a free-thinking woman who worked in a cigar factory and was obsessed with love. Bizet’s music was ahead of its time and Carmen became a cultural icon. She is a symbol of the modern woman who lives outside of society’s norms and makes her own rules. She is a powerful and alluring figure with an unforgettable voice.