A Day In The Life


Carmen
July 4, 2007, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Music

In a recent post I expressed my opinion that opera is often misunderstood and ignored due to bad publicity.   So tonight I want to share the story of Carmen, another of my very favorite operas.  Now don’t stop reading Willow Tree and all you other not-so-enthusiastic-about-opera readers because I promise this story will satisfy the most bloodthirsty discerning reader. 

I begged my college vocal instructor to let me learn the role of Carmen, but, alas, Madame would not allow it.  My voice was too ‘sweet and pure’ for the role of Carmen, not to mention the role is written for a much lower voice range than mine.  But, oh, the music is rapturous and Carmen’s arias are so sensual and Carmen herself, well, she is the ultimate bad girl. 

The setting is Seville where Carmen and her friends work in a cigarette factory.  Carmen is bewitching, sexy, alluring and pretty much a tramp.  Soldiers and other young men hang out in the square waiting to see the cigarette factory girls arrive for work.  The girls enter smoking seductively and singing of the joys of tobacco and the deceits of lovers.  Carmen is the main attraction and the men beg her to choose one of them as her lover, but she brushes them off by singing the famous ‘Habanera.’  Carmen does notice that one man, Don Jose, seems indifferent to her charms so she rips a flower from the bodice of her dress and throws it at his feet.  The girls enter the factory to begin their labor. 

Soon loud screams and the sounds of rioting erupt from the factory.  The girls rush out screaming for help while they fight with one another.  Chaos ensues.  Finally, Zuniga, the lieutenant, gets the report that a quarrel occurred and Carmen slashed a girl’s face with a knife.  He sends Don Jose into the factory to arrest Carmen.  Carmen at first pleads self-defense then she insolently sings instead of answering Zuniga’s questions.  Her hands are bound and Zuniga goes off with the other soldiers to make out a warrant for Carmen’s arrest, leaving her in Don Jose’s charge.  Of course, Carmen seduces Don Jose and he unties her hands and lets her escape.  Don Jose is sent to prison instead.

In the meantime, Carmen sends a file to the imprisoned Don Jose so that he can escape.  Then she proceeds to flirt shamelessly with and dance seductively for a bunch of men in a tavern.  ( Hang it up, Paris, Carmen totally outclasses you as a bad girl. )  Carmen plays several men against each other making vague promises of future liasons with them.  One of these men is Escamillo, a famous bullfighter. 

Eventually, Don Jose is released from prison and he arrives at the tavern where Carmen has been spending her time.  He is so bewitched by her attentions that he refuses to return to the barracks and pulls a sword on his superior officer.  Don Jose has no choice but to join a band of gypsy smugglers that Carmen is associated with.  Months (and another act) later, Escamillo meets up with the smugglers and proclaims that he is seeking Carmen because he is in love with her.  Don Jose is violently jealous and challenges Escamillo to a knife-fight.  He disarms Escamillo and is about to kill him when Carmen and some other smugglers enter and disarm Don Jose.  In an instant, Carmen chooses Escamillo as her new lover which leaves Don Jose seething with jealousy. 

In the final act, all the cast assembles at the bull-ring in Seville to watch Escamillo in a great bullfight.  The soldiers have been pursuing poor Don Jose as a deserter, but he has escaped arrest.  Escamillo and Carmen enter arm-in-arm in a great procession, but instead of entering the bull-ring with the rest of the crowd, Carmen hangs around outside waiting for the inevitable confrontation with the fugitive Don Jose.  Jose shows up and passionately implores Carmen to return to him.  She taunts him proudly proclaiming her love for Escamillo and throws a ring that Jose gave her in his face.  Rage and despair overwhelm Don Jose and he stabs Carmen to death. 

And the moral of this story:  Bad girls, sooner or later, always pay for their crimes.

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8 Comments so far
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Now see, that’s what I’m talking about! That’s a really good story, too bad about all that godawful pretentious singing that has to be endured with it though.

Carmen had always been one of my favourites, and I particularly like those bowls of fruit she wears on her head.

Comment by Willowtree

beautifully written senorita…

Next time will you tell the story of La Boheme

Si. Mi chiamano Mimi

(That was one of my songs from voice instruction in high school. Another dead heroine. sigh)

Comment by Pamela

Uh, gee, Willow Tree, I appreciate you reading my post and commenting, but…uh…you’re thinking of Carmen Miranda the actress and singer rather than Carmen the opera siren, but I’m sure you know that 😉

Pamela, La Boheme is another favorite!

Comment by arkansassongbird

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Carmen!!!!! I even love the singing! 🙂

Comment by Debbie

I have to admit WT’s comment had me laughing out loud. Thanks for the synopsis. I knew little more than Carmen was quite the seductress, and that the music is a favorite of championship ice skaters.

Comment by mjd

Still laughing at willowtree’s comment. Anyway, thanks for the story of Carmen. I’ll look forward to more stories. Very interesting!

Comment by Betty

I love Carmen!

Comment by LeftCoastOnlooker

Carmen is one of my favorite Operas – for obvious reasons, I would think. However, not only is the Name FABULOUS – the chick very naughty, but the music is pretty dang good too.

Comment by Karmyn R




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