Famous for its use of Spanish dances, such as the Habanera (“L’amour et en oiseau rebelle”) and Seguidilla (“Près de rampart de Seville”), Carmen has some of the most well-known music of the operatic canon.
When the seductive Spanish gypsy, Carmen, shows an interest in Don José, he initially dismisses it, intending to honor his promise to the village girl Micaëla. There is something irresistible about Carmen though, and when José is ordered to put her in prison he risks everything by setting her free. He is imprisoned for his crime but takes comfort from the flower she gave him, and through it becomes obsessed with her. On his release, he risks his life and honor for her again when she is threatened by another officer. José is forced to join the gypsies who came to his aid or face punishment for mutiny against a senior officer. Don José quickly regrets his decision and blames Carmen for his dishonor. He leaves the gypsies to attend his mother, who is dying, but swears he will return to Carmen and they will be together until death. Meanwhile, Carmen has read her death in the cards and in José’s look. When Escamillo, the toreador who took a fancy to Carmen while José was in prison, comes looking for her, she seizes the opportunity to get away from José. All ends in tragedy when José confronts Carmen in a jealous rage and forces her to choose.
Set in the heat of Seville, Carmen is an enduring story of passion, lust, jealousy, obsession, and revenge which remains one of the most popular operas in the canon today.
Carmen guide sections