Carmen opera - Bizet (1875)
Carmen Jones
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Photograph by Nadav DafniKind: Comic opera
Language: French
Location: Spain
Time: 19th century
Hits: March of the Toreadors, Habanera
Background and Story
An image from this opera in a production of the San Diego Opera houseThe opera "Carmen" is, undoubtfully, one of the most popular operas of all times, and the audience still buys tickets by the thousands every single time. It is one of the only operas reproduced as a movie, without any omissions or changes in structure, and masses of people got to know opera thanks to this film. However, during its premiere, on March 3rd 1875, it was heavily scorned and scolded, for its "immoral" character, and for the amount of violence it shows. The legend says the failure of this opera made Bizet die of grief, three months after opening night.
The facts are that it was quite successful from the beginning, and that Bizet died of a heart conditioned he had for a while before. The opera's libretto is based on a story from 1843 by Prospere Merimee, about a wild young Spanish woman, called Carmen, who falls in love with an officer who leads her to prison, and ends up deeply disappointing him when she cheats on him with a revered toreador. In his despair, he stabs her to death with a knife. In the original story, Carmen is a loose girl, whereas in the opera she is portrayed as an admired figure, though light-minded.
An image from this opera in a production of the San Diego Opera house

About the work
Originally, "Carmen" is an "Opera Comique". "Comic" does not mean a funny opera, but refers to its having spoken dialogues (characters speak to each other with musical accompaniment). After Bizet's death, his friend Ernest Girot composed the dialogues into recitatives (sung dialogue). Nowadays, this version is the one usually performed.
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