Basing their work on Prosper Merimee’s novella, librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy created a timeless tale of love, jealousy and violence set in 19th century Seville.
It tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by Carmen, a provocative and free-spirited femme fatale. José abandons his childhood sweetheart Michaela and deserts the army. Despite this he finally loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo. In a fit of jealous rage José kills Carmen, bringing the opera to a dramatic and tragic end.Read more
Now probably the most popular opera in the world, Carmen scandalised its earliest audiences with its raw depiction of lust among the poor and dispossessed of 19th-century Seville.
During its first production at the Opéra Comique in March 1875 much of the public was puzzled and indifferent although a few well-wishers ventured to applaud occasionally. The Quintet and the Toreador’s Song made favourable impressions and the prelude of the Act II was encored. However, apart from that the evening could not have been called a success.
French audiences were essentially conservative and Carmen burst upon them like a storm. Its passionate force was mistakenly labelled as brutality. Furthermore, the suspected German influence which Bizet’s clever use of guiding themes implied was in itself enough to alienate the sympathies of the average Frenchman in the early 1870s so soon after the Franco-Prussian war.
Bizet, with his masterpiece, had managed to break loose from the classical French style. His music displayed startling and novel features for which the polite tastes of the French public were not prepared. Carmen limped on but closed after only thirty-seven performances.Read more
Composer and virtuoso pianist, Georges Bizet of the French romantic era achieved little success before his final work Carmen was produced. Since then the opera has become one of the most frequently performed and popular in the world.
Bizet was born in Paris in 1838 and entered the Conservatoire de Paris ten years later, graduating in 1857. Encouraged by his composition teacher, Fromental Halévy, he entered for the prestigious Music Composition scholarship Prix de Rome in 1856 and was awarded Second Prize. Prior to going to Rome he was awarded joint first prize for Le Docteur Miracle, a one-act operetta.Read more