The Music of Carmen

February 16, 18, 22, 24, and 28, 2012, at 8 pm
Matinée February 26 at 2:30 pm

Lucky you, if you are discovering for the first time Bizet's marvelous music and that provocative, headstrong, irresistible girl named Carmen. If you have experienced the opera many times, how rewarding to listen with fresh ears to this amazing music – the sinuous smoky chorus of the cigarette girls; the sultry Habanera; the surprising little idyll of the entre'acte to Act 3; the soaring anguish of Micaëla's aria Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante – and the audio and video selections below. The ease, the perfect dramatic inevitability of the music never palls.

Carmen: The Best of Youtube

The Habanera from Act 1, with Anne Sofie von Otter as Carmen.
L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
que nul ne peut apprivoiser...
L'amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi,
si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime,
si je t'aime, prends garde à toi!

Love is a rebellious bird
that no one can tame...
Love is a Gypsy child,
that has never known any law,
If you don't love me, then I love you,
If I love you you'd best watch out!

Glyndebourne 2002. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Philippe Jordan.


The Seguidilla (Près des remparts de Séville), the aria that Carmen uses to seduce Don José into letting her escape from his custody. Here is a concert performance by the great Maria Callas in Hamburg in 1962.

Près des remparts de Séville
chez mon ami Lillas Pastia,
j'irai danser la seguedille
et boire du Manzanilla ...
Oui, mais toute seule on s'ennuie,
et les vrais plaisir sont à deux;
donc pour me tenir compagnie,
j'ammènerai mon amoureux! ...
Vous arrivez au bon moment!

Close by the walls of Sevilla,
Lives my old friend Lillas Pastia,
I'll go there to dance the Seguidilla
And to drink Manzanilla,
Yes, but all alone it's boring!
Real pleasures are for two to share ...
So to keep me company
I'll take my latest lover there! ...
You have arrived at just the right time!


At the beginning of Act 2, the gypsies sing and dance at Lillas Pastia's inn.

Les tringles des sistres tintaient avec un éclat métallique,
et sur cette étrange musique les zingarellas se levaient.

It starts with a metallic rhythm vibrating in the air
And drawn by this strange music the gypsies rise

Elina Garanca as Carmen. Metropolitan Opera, January, 2010.


Toreador Song from Act 2, and the meeting of Carmen and Escamillo (Tell me your name, and the next time I kill a bull, yours will be the name I utter. )

Toréador, en garde! Toréador! Toréador!
Et songe bien, oui, songe en combattant qu'un oeil noir te regarde
et que l'amour t'attend, Toréador, l'amour, l'amour t'attend!

Toreador, on guard, Toreador, Toreador!
And remember that when you draw your sword that dark eyes are watching you
And love awaits you! Toreador, love is waiting for you!

Gino Quilico as Escamillo, Maria Ewing as Carmen
Covent Garden 1991. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Zubin Mehta


Roberto Alagna sings Don José's aria La fleur que tu m'avais jetée from Act 2.

La fleur que tu m'avais jetée dans ma prison m'était restée,
flétrie et sèche, cette fleur gardait toujours sa douce odeur ...
et je ne sentais en moi-même, je ne sentais qu'un seul désir,
un seul désir, un seul espoir: te revoir, o Carmen, oui, te revoir!

The flower that you threw to me stayed with me in prison,
Though faded and dried, this flower still kept its sweet fragrance ...
And I felt in myself, I felt but one desire
Only one thought, one hope: to see you again, Carmen, yes to see you again!

Don José: Robert Alagna. Carmen: Béatrice Uria-Monzon
Recorded at the Chorégies d'Orange - July 2004. Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung.


Audio recording of Anna Moffo singing Micaëla's Aria, Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante from Act 3. Micaëa has come to the gypsy camp to find Don José to bring him to his dying mother. Micaëla is terrified of meeting Carmen and prays to the Lord to protect her and give her courage.

Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante, je dis, hélas! que je réponds de moi;
mais j'ai beau faire la vaillante, au fond du coeur, je meurs d'effroi!

I said there was nothing could scare me, I said I'd stay here all alone tonight;
But though I try to act so bravely, Yet in my heart I die of fright!...

From Anna Moffo's 1961 RCA Victor debut recital LP.


San Diego OperaTalk! with Nick Reveles: An engaging video introduction to Carmen with Dr. Nicolas Reveles, Director of Education and Outreach at San Diego Opera.


This music seems perfect to me. . . this music treats the listener as intelligent, as if himself a musician . . . I become a better human being when this Bizet speaks to me. Also a better musician, a better listener.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner


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