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Bizet's Carmen. Opera at its best. A cautionary tale of the fickleness of affection. But with immortal music.

Updated on February 14, 2016


On first seeing the location for Bizet's Carmen.

The story of the gypsy Carmen, and the soldier Don Jose.

The lessons from Carmen. Cigarettes may be bad for you, but cigarette girls are worse.

Habanera from Carmen. How to drive men wild with desire.

The Bullfighter. Toreador's song. (Brilliant singing).

What price love?

Carmen. The ultimate "Femme Fatale"
Carmen. The ultimate "Femme Fatale"
The Cigarette Factory in Seville.
The Cigarette Factory in Seville.
Spanish bullfighter. Who wants Don Jose now?
Spanish bullfighter. Who wants Don Jose now?

On first seeing the location for Bizet's Carmen.

In my earlier days I went for a memorable holiday to that most delightful of resorts Torremolinos on the south coast of Spain. It was a beautiful time of sunshine, plenty of vino, Spanish brandy, and throwing up on the road back to the hotel. There was a certain amount of coition with some agile natives as well. All good unclean fun actually.

But in the middle of my sweaty bacchanalia I went on a day trip to Seville, that jewel of a city, just over the mountains from the resort. You see, I wanted to get a taste of the real Spain as well. I don’t like my holiday memories just to be confined to hangovers, and the naughty bits of the more compliant locals.

Seville is a really lovely city. I can remember all the gorgeous flowers in the hidden gardens, that our guide encouraged us to peep into. I can call to mind the beauties of the palaces, and the cathedral, and I can remember marvelling at the "expo buildings” and feeling like I could dissolve, when told the temperature was forty degrees centigrade.

But of all the wonders of Seville, the one that meant the most to me, was a large barrack like building that was pointed out to us, in the distance, from our speeding coach. The guide explained to us that it was the very cigarette factory that Carmen worked in. As a great lover of Bizet's tragic opera, that was the sight that impressed me more than any other.

Habanera from Carmen. How to drive men wild with desire.

The story of the gypsy Carmen, and the soldier Don Jose.

It is one of the strangest things about the opera Carmen that a story that is supposed to embody all the romance and fire of the Andalucía gypsy soul, should be written by a Frenchman entirely in French. When people think Carmen, they automatically think Spain, gypsies, and bullfighters. I guess it is the hallmark of great art to be able to suspend disbelief, and this opera is undoubtedly art at it's very best.

It starts when the gypsy Carmen, who works in the cigarette factory, throws a rose at the feet of the soldier Don Jose, and captures his heart. This is where she sings that most seductive of all arias "Habanera".

Later Carmen gets into a fight with another woman, and gets sentenced to prison. Don Jose has to escort her there.

She persuades him to let her escape, and then he gets thrown into jail for his pains.

His gypsy lover waits faithfully for his release, and resists the advances of a handsome bullfighter, and another soldier. (More than I would have done. If a handsome bullfighter, or a half decent soldier, made a pass at me, my jailed lover would be forgotten straightaway). That's a story for another day though.

The bullfighter sings the famous "Toreador's Song", one of the highlights of the opera.

When Don Jose is released from prison, Carmen gets him to desert the army, and run away with her and her gypsy friends. They don’t live happily ever after however. Don Jose gets homesick for his family and old mates, and his gypsy lover decides that she is no longer in love with him.

Don Jose is persuaded to leave by Carmen's friend, who tells him that his mother is dying. He leaves, swearing undying love for Carmen, who promptly goes out with the bullfighter.

The final part of the story takes part in the city. Carmen is definitely with the handsome bullfighter. Don Jose, who has turned into a stalker, confronts her, and again confesses his love. She tells him that she no longer loves him, and she throws the ring, that he had earlier given her, at his feet.

In rage and disappointment, he stabs her to death.

The opera ends with Don Jose confessing his crime to the crowded bullfighting arena. Bizet does not tell what the final fate of this tragic lover was, but if nineteenth century Spanish judicial practice is anything to go by, it probably involved a rather messy appointment with a garrotte.

Some of the most beautiful music in all opera is to be found in this masterpiece. I will include a couple of highlights with this hub.

The Bullfighter. Toreador's song. (Brilliant singing.)

The lessons from Carmen. Cigarettes may be bad for you, but cigarette girls are worse.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the story of Carmen and Don Jose, it surely is, that whatever the doctors might say about the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes, they are nothing compared with the lethal consequences of getting involved with cigarette girls.

The truth is in here


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