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Carmen - Synopsis
An Opera by Georges Bizet

Opera in four acts by Georges Bizet; words by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, founded on the novel by Prosper Merimée. Produced, Opéra Comique, Paris, March 3, 1875, the title role being created by Galli-Marie. Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, in Italian, June 22, 1878; same theatre, February 5, 1879, in English; same theatre, November 8, 1886, in French, with Galli-Marie. Minnie Hauck, who created Carmen, in London, also created the rôle in America, October 23, 1879 at the Academy of Music, New York, with Campanini (Don José), Del Puente (Escamillo), and Mme. Sinico (Micaela). The first New Orleans Carmen, January 14, 1881, was Mme. Ambre. Calvé made her New York debut as Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House, December 20, 1893, with Jean de Reszke (Don Jose), and Eames (Micaela) Bressler-Gianoli, and afterwards Calvé, sang the role at the Manhattan Opera House. Farrar made her first appearance as Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House, November 19, 1914. Campanini, Jean de Reszke, and Caruso are the most famous Don Josés who have appeared in this country; but the role also has been admirably interpreted by Saleza and Dalmores. No singer has approached Emma Eames as Micaela; nor has any interpreter of Escamillo equaled Del Puente, who had the range and quality of voice and buoyancy of action which the rôle requires. Galassi, Campanini, Plançon, and Amato should be mentioned as other interpreters of the role.

February 13, 1912, Mary Garden appeared as Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House, with the Chicago Opera Company.

"Carmen" is an opera of worldwide popularity, and as highly esteemed by musicians as by the public.


DON JOSE, a corporal of dragoons……………………Tenor
ESCAMILLO, a toreador………………………………. Baritone
EL DANCAIRO, a smuggler……………………………Baritone
EL REMENDADO, a smuggler…………………………Tenor
ZUNIGA, a captain…………………………………….. Bass
MORALES, an officer…………………………………. Bass
MICAELA, a peasant girl………………………………. Soprano
FRASQUITA, a gypsy, friend of Carmen…….…….…Mezzo-soprano
MERCEDES, a gypsy, friend of Carmen…….…….…Mezzo-soprano
CARMEN, a cigarette girl and gypsy…………………… Soprano
Innkeeper, guide, officers, dragoons, boys, cigarette girls, gypsies, smugglers, etc.

Time: About 1820.
Place: Seville, Spain.

Original production of Bizet's opera Carmen, 1875 (image)

Act 1 of the original production of Carmen (1875)
(Lithograph by Auguste Lamy.)

Act I. A square in Seville. On the right the gate of a cigarette factory. At the back, facing the audience, is a practicable bridge from one side of the stage to the other, and reached from the stage by a winding staircase on the right beyond the factory gate. The bridge also is practicable underneath. People from a higher level of the city can cross it and descend by the stairway to the square. Others can pass under it. In front, on the left, is a guardhouse. Above it three steps lead to a covered passage. In a rack, close to the door, are the lances of the dragoons of Almanza, with their little red and yellow flags.

Morales and soldiers are near the guard-house. People are coming and going. There is a brisk chorus, "Sur la place" (O’er this square). Micaela comes forward, as if looking for someone.

"And for whom are you looking?" Morales asks of the pretty girl, who shyly has approached the soldiers lounging outside the guard-house.

"I am looking for a corporal," she answers.

"I am one," Morales says, gallantly.

"But not the one. His name is José."

The soldiers, scenting amusement in trying to flirt with a pretty creature, whose innocence is as apparent as her charm, urge her to remain until Don José comes at change of guard. But, saying she will return then, she runs away like a frightened deer, past the cigarette factory, across the square, and down one of the side streets.

A fascinating little march for fifes and trumpets is heard, at first in the distance, then gradually nearer.

The change of guard arrives preceded by a band of street lads, imitating the step of the dragoons. After the lads come captain Zuniga and Corporal José; then dragoons, armed with lances. The ceremony of changing guard is gone through with, to the accompaniment of a chorus of gamins and grown-up spectators. It is a lively scene.

"It must have been Micaela," says Don José, when they tell him of the girl with tresses of fair hair and dress of blue, who was looking for him. "Nor do I mind saying," he adds, "that I love her." And indeed, although there are some sprightly girls in the crowd that have gathered in the square to see the guard changed, he has no eyes for them, but, straddling a chair out in the open, busies himself trying to join the links of a small chain that has come apart.

The bell of the cigarette factory strikes the work hour, and the cigarette girls push their way through the crowd, stopping to make eyes at the soldiers and young men, or lingering to laugh and chat, before passing through the factory gates.

A shout goes up:


A girl, dark as a gypsy and lithe as a panther, darts across the bridge and down the steps into the square, the crowd parting and making way for her.

"Love you?" she cries insolently to the men who press around her and ply her with their attentions. "Perhaps tomorrow. Anyhow not today." Then, a dangerous fire kindling in her eyes, she sways slowly to and fro to the rhythm of a "Habanera," singing the while, "L’amour est une oiseau rebelle," etc.

Love is a gypsy boy, ‘tis true,
He ever was and ever will be free;
Love you not me, then I love you,
Yet, if I love you, beware of me!

Often she glances toward José, often dances so close to him that she almost touches him, and by subtle inflections in her voice seeks to attract his attention. But he seems unaware of her presence. Indeed if, thinking of Micaela he has steeled himself against the gypsy, in whose every glance, step, and song lurks peril, the handsome dragoon could not be busying himself more obstinately with the broken chain in his hand.

"Yet, if I love you, beware of me!"

Tearing from her bodice a blood-red cassia flower, she flings it at him point blank. He springs to his feet, as if he would rush at her. But he meets her look, and stops where he stands. Then, with a toss of the head and a mocking laugh, she runs into the factory, followed by the other girls, while the crowd, having had its sport, disperses.

The librettists have constructed an admirable scene. The composer has taken full advantage of it. The "Habanera" establishes Carmen in the minds of the audience -- the gypsy girl, passionate yet fickle, quick to love and quick to tire. Hers the dash of fatalism that flirts with death.

At José’s feet lies the cassia flower thrown by Carmen, the glance of whose dark eyes had checked him. Hesitatingly, yet as if in spite of himself, he stoops and picks it up, presses it to his nostrils and draws in its subtle perfume in a long breath. Then, still as if involuntarily, or as if a magic spell lies in its odour, he thrusts the flower under his blouse and over his heart.

He no more than has concealed it there, when Micaela again enters the square and hurries to him with joyful exclamations. She brings him tidings from home, and some money from his mother’s savings, with which to eke out his small pay. They have a charming duel, "Ma mère, je la vois, je revois mon village" (My home in yonder valley, my mother, lov’d, again l’ll see).

It is evident that Micaela’s coming gives him a welcome change of thought, and that, although she cannot remain long, her sweet, pure presence has for the time being lifted the spell the gypsy has cast over him. For, when Micaela has gone, José grasps the flower under his blouse, evidently intending to draw it out and cast it away.

Just then, however, there are cries of terror from the cigarette factory and, in a moment, the square is filled with screaming girls, soldiers, and others. From the excited utterances of the cigarette girls it is learned that there has been a quarrel between Carmen and another girl, and that Carmen has wounded the latter with a knife. Zuniga promptly orders José to take two dragoons with him into the factory and arrest her. None abashed, and smirking, she comes out with them. When the captain begins questioning her, she answers with a gay "Tra la, la, tra la la," pitching her voice on a higher note after each question with an indescribable effect of mockery, that makes her dark beauty the more fascinating.

Losing patience, the officer orders her hands tied behind her back, while he makes out the warrant for her imprisonment. The soldiers having driven away the crowd, Don José is left to guard Carmen.

Pacing up and down the square, he appears to be avoiding her. But she, as if speaking to herself, or thinking aloud, and casting furtive glances at him, tells of a handsome young dragoon with whom she has fallen in love.

"He is not a captain, nor even a lieutenant-only a corporal. But he will do what I ask-because he is in love with me!"

"I? -- I love you?" Jose pause beside her.

With a coquettish toss of the head and a significant glance she asks, "Where is the flower I threw at you? What have you done wit it?" Then, softly, she sings another, alluring melody in typical Spanish dance measure, a "Seguidilla," "Sur les ramparts de Seville."

Near by the ramparts of Seville,
Is the inn of my friend, Lillas Pastia;
There I’ll dance the gay Seguidilla --
And the dance with my lover l’ll share.

"Carmen!" cries José, "you have bewitched me"…

"Near by the ramparts of Seville"... "And the dance with my lover l’ll share! She murmurs insinuatingly, and at the same time she holds back her bound wrists toward him. Quickly he undoes the knot, but leaves the rope about her wrists so that she still appears to be a captive, when the captain comes from the guard-house with the warrant. He is followed by the soldiers, and the crowd, drawn by curiosity to see Carmen led off to prison, again fills the square.

José places her between two dragoons, and the party starts for the bridge. When they reach the steps, Carmen quickly draws her hands free of the rope, shoves the soldiers aside, and before they know what has happened, dashes up to the bridge and across it, tossing the rope down into the square as she disappears from sight, while the crowd, hindering pursuit by blocking the steps, jeers at the discomfited soldiers.

Act II. The tavern of Lillas Pastia. Benches right and left. Towards the end of a dinner. The table is in confusion.

Frasquita, Mercedes, and Morales are with Carmen; also other officers, gypsies, etc. The offices are smoking. Two gypsies in a corner play the guitar and two others dance. Carmen looks at them. Morales speaks to her; she does not listen to him, but suddenly rises and sings, "Les tringles des sistres tintaient" (Ah, when of gay guitars the sound).

Frasquita and Mercedes join in the "Tra la la la" of the refrain. While Carmen clicks the castanets, the dance, in which she and others have joined the two gypsies, becomes more rapid and violent. With the last notes Carmen drops on a seat.

The refrain, "Tra la la la," with its rising inflection, is a most characteristic and effective bit.

There are shouts outside. "Long live the torero! Long live Escamillo!" The famous bull-fighter, the victor of the bull ring at Granada, is approaching. He sings the famous "Couplets de Toreador," a rousing song with refrain and chorus. "Votre toast je peux vous le render" (To your toast I drink with pleasure) begins the number. The refrain, with chorus, is "Toreador, en garde" (Toreador, e’er watchful be).

Escamillo’s debonair manner, his glittering uniform, his reputation for prowess, make him a brilliant and striking figure. He is much struck with Carmen. She is impressed by him. But her fancy still is for the handsome dragoon, who has been under arrest since he allowed her to escape, and only that day has been freed. The Toreador, followed by the crowd, which includes Morales, departs.

It is late. The tavern keeper closes the shutters and leaves the room. Carmen, Frasquita, and Mercedes are quickly joined by the smugglers, El Dancairo and El Remendado. The men need the aid of the three girls in wheedling the coast-guard, and possibly others, into neglect of duty. Their sentiments, "En matiere de tromperie," etc. (When it comes to a matter of cheating. . . let women in on the deal), are expressed in a quintet that is full of spontaneous merriment -- in fact, nowhere in "Carmen," not even in the most dramatic passage, is the music forced.

The men want the girls to depart with them at once. Carmen wishes to await José. The men suggest that she win him over to become one of their band. Not a bad idea, she thinks. They leave it to her to carry out the plan.

Even now José is heard singing, as he approaches the tavern, "Halte là! Qui va là? Dragon d’Alcala!" (Halt there! Who goes there? Dragoon of Alcala!). He comes in. soon she has made him jealous by telling him that she was obliged to dance for Morales and the officers. But now she will dance for him.

She begins to dance. He eyes are fastened on her. From the distant barracks a bugle call is heard. It is the "retreat," the summons to quarters. The dance, the bugle call, which comes nearer, passes by and into the distance, the lithe, swaying figure, the wholly obsessed look of José -- these are details of a remarkably effective scene. José starts to obey the summons to quarters. Carmen taunts him with placing duty above his love for her. He draws from his breast the flower she gave him, and showing it to her in proof of his passion, sings the pathetic air, "La fleur que tu m’avais jetée" (The flower that once to me you gave).

Despite her lure, he hesitates to become a deserter and follow her to the mountains. But at that moment Morales, thinking to find Carmen alone, bursts open the tavern door. There is an angry scene between Morales and José. They draw their sabres. The whole band of smugglers comes in at Carmen’s call. El Dancairo and El Remandado cover Morales with their pistols, and lead him off.

"And you? Will you now come with us?" asks Carmen of Don José.

He, a corporal who has drawn his sabre against an officer, an act of insubordination for which severe punishment awaits him, is ready now to follow his temptress to the mountains.

Emile Ambre as Carmen in Bizet's opera, Carmen (image)

Emilie Ambre in the role of Carmen in Bizet's opera of the same name. (Painting by French painter, Edouard Manet.)

Act III. A rocky and picturesque spot among rocks on a mountain. At the rising of the curtain there is complete solitude. After a few moments a smuggler appears on the summit of a rock, then two, then the whole band, descending and scrambling down the mass of rocks. Among them are Carmen, Don José, El Dancairo, El Remendado, Frasquita, and Mercedes.

The opening chorus has a peculiarly attractive lilt.

Don José is unhappy. Carmen’s absorbing passion for his has been of brief duration. A creature of impulse, she is fickle and wayward. Don José, a soldier bred, but now a deserter, is ill at ease among the smugglers, and finds cause to reproach himself for sacrificing everything to a fierce and capricious beauty, in whose veins courses the blood of a lawless race. Yet he still loves her to distraction, and is insanely jealous of her. She gives him ample cause for jealousy. It is quite apparent that the impression made upon her by Escamillo, the dashing toreador and victor in many bull-fights, is deepening. Escamillo has been caught in the lure of her dangerous beauty, but he doesn’t annoy her by sulking in her presence, like Don José, but goes on adding to his laurels by winning fresh victories in the bull ring.

Now that Don José is more than usually morose, she says with a sarcastic inflection in her voice:

"If you don’t like our mode of life here, why don’t you leave?"

"And go far from you! Carmen! If you say that again, it will be your death!" He half draws his knife from his belt.

With a shrug of her shoulders Carmen replies: "What matter -- I shall die as fate wills." And, indeed, she plays with fate as with men’s hearts. For whatever else this gypsy may be, she is fearless.

While Don José wanders moodily about the camp, she joins Frasquita and Mercedes, who are telling their fortunes by cards. The superstitious creatures are merry because the cards favour them. Carmen takes the pack and draws.

"Spades! -- A grave!" she mutters darkly, and for a moment it seems as if she is drawing back from a shadow that has crossed her path. But the bravado of the fatalist does not long desert her.

"What matters it?" she calls to the two girls. "If you are to die, try the cards a hundred times, they will fall the same --spades, a grave!" Then, glancing in the direction where Don José stood, she adds, in a low voice, "First I, then he!"

The "Card Trio," "Melons! Coupons!" (Shiffle! Throw!) is a brilliant passage of the score, broken in upon by Carmen’s fatalistic soliloquy.

A moment later, when the leader of the smugglers announces that it is an opportune time to attempt to convey their contraband through the mountain pass, she is all on the alert and aids in making ready for the departure. Don José is posted behind a screen of rocks above the camp, to guard against a surprise from the rear, while the smugglers make their way through the pass.

Unseen by him, a guide comes out on the rocks, and, making a gesture in the direction of the camp, hastily withdraws. Into this wild passage of nature, where desperate characters but a few moments before were encamped, and where Carmen had darkly hinted at fate, as foretold by the stars, there descends Micaela, the emblem of sweetness and purity in this tragedy of the passions. She is seeking Don José, in hopes of reclaiming him. Her romance, "Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante" (I try not to own that I tremble), is characterized by Mr. Upton as "the most effective and beautiful number in the whole work." The introduction for horns is an exquisite passage, and the expectations it awakens are fully met by the melodious measures of the romance.

Having looked about her, and failing to find Don José, she withdraws. Meanwhile Don José, from the place where he stands guard, has caught sight of a man approaching the camp. A shot rings out. It is Don Jose who has fired at the man coming up the defile. He is about to fire again, but the nonchalant manner in which the stranger comes on, and, waving his hat, calls out, "An inch lower and it would have been all over with me!" causes him to lower his gun and advance to meet him.

"I am Escamillo and I am here to see Carmen," he says gaily. "She had a lover here, a dragoon, who deserted from his troop for her. She adored him, but that, I understand, is all over with now. The loves of Carmen never last long."

"Slowly, my friend," replies Don Jose. "Before any one can take our gypsy girls away, he must pay the price."

"So, so. And what is it?"

"It is paid with the knife," grimly answers Jose, as he draws his blade.

"Ah," laughs the Toreador, "then you are the dragoon of whom Carmen has wearied. I am in luck to have met you so soon."

He, too, draws. The knives clash, as the men, the one a soldier, the other a bullfighter, skillfully thrust and parry. But Don José’s is the better weapon, for, as he catches one of Escamillo’s thrusts on his blade, the Toreador’s knife snaps short. It would be a fatal mishap for Escamillo, did not at that moment the gypsies and smugglers, recalled by the shot, hurry in and separate the combatants. Unruffled by his misadventure, especially as his ardent glances meet an answering gleam in Carmen’s eyes, the Toreador invites the entire band to the coming bullfight in Seville, in which he is to figure. With a glad shout they assent.

"Don’t be angry, dragoon," he adds tauntingly. "We may meet again."

For answer Don José seeks to rush at him, but some of the smugglers hold him back, while Toreador leisurely goes his way.

The smugglers make ready to depart again. One of them, however, spies Micaela. She is led down. Don José is reluctant to comply with her pleas to go away with her. The fact that Carmen urges him to do what the girl says only arouses his jealousy. But when at last Micaela tells him that his mother is dying of a broken heart for him, he makes ready to go.

In the distance Escamillo is heard singing:

Toreador, on guard e’er be!
Thou shalt read, in her dark eyes,
Hopes of victory.
Her love is the prize!

Carmen listens, as if enraptured, and starts to run after him. Don José with bared knife bars the way; then leaves with Micaela.

Enrico Caruso as Don Jose in Bizet's opera Carmen, c. 1904 (image)

Enrico Caruso's sketch of himself as Don José in Bizet's opera Carmen in a production of c. 1904.

Act IV. A square in Seville. At the back the entrance to the arena. It is the day of the bullfight. The square is animated. Watersellers, others with oranges, fans, and other articles. Chorus. Ballet.

Gay the crowd that fills the square outside the arena where the bullfights are held. It cheers the first strains of music heard as the festival procession approaches, and it shouts and applauds as the various divisions go by and pass into the arena: "The Aguacil on horseback!" -- "The chulos with their pretty little flags!" -- "Look! The bandilleros. All clad in green and spangles, and waving the crimson clothes!" -- "The picadors with the pointed lances!" -- "The cuadrilla of toreros!" -- "Now! Vivo, vivo! Escamillo!" And a great shout goes up, as the Toreador enters, with Carmen on his arm.

There is a brief but beautiful duet for Escamillo and Carmen, "Si tu m’aimes, Carmen" (If you love me, Carmen). Before he goes into the building to make ready for the bullfight, while she waits to be joined by some of the smugglers and gypsies, whom Escamillo has invited to be witnesses, with her, of his prowess.

As the Alcade crosses the square and enters the arena, and the crowd pours in after him, one of the gypsy girls from the smugglers’ band whispers to Carmen:

"If you value your life, Carmen, don’t stay here. He is lurking in the crowd and watching you."

"He? -- José? -- I am no coward. -- I fear no one. -- If he is here, we will have it over with now," she answers, defiantly, motioning to the girl to pass on into the arena into which the square is rapidly emptying itself. Carmen lingers until she is the only left, with a shrug of contempt, turns to enter -- but finds herself facing Don José, who has slunk out from one of the side streets to intercept her.

"I was told you were here. I was even warned to leave here, because my life was in danger. If the hour has come, well, so be it. But, live or die, yours I shall never be again."

Her speech is abrupt, rapid, but there is no tremor of fear in her voice.

Don José is pale and haggard. His eyes are hollow, but they glow with a dangerous light. His plight has passed from the pitiable to the desperate stage.

"Carmen," he says hoarsely, "leave with me. Begin life over again with the under another sky. I will adore you so, it will make you love me."

"You never can make me love you again. No one can make me do anything. Free I was born, free I die."

The band in the arena strikes up a fanfare. There are loud vivos for Escamillo. Carmen starts to rush for the entrance. Driven to the fury of despair, his knife drawn, as it had been when he barred her way in the smugglers’ camp, Don José confronts her. He laughs grimly.

"The man for whom they are shouting -- he is the one for whom you have deserted me!"

"Let me pass!" is her defiant answer.

"That you may tell him how you have spurned me, and laugh with him over my misery!"

Again the crowd in the arena shouts: "Victory! Victory! Vivo, vico, Escamillo, the toreador of Granada!"

A cry of triumph escapes Carmen.

"You love him!" hisses Don José.

"Yes, I love him! If I must die for it, I love him! Victory for Escamillo, victory! I go to the victor of the arena!"

She makes a dash for the entrance. Somehow she manages to get past the desperate man who has stood between her and the gates. She reaches the steps, her foot already touches the landing above them, when he overtakes her, and madly plunges his knife into her back. With a shriek heard above the shouts of the crowd within, she staggers, falls, and rolls lifeless down the steps into the square.

The doors of the arena swing open. Acclaiming the prowess of Escamillo, out pours the crowd, suddenly to halt, hushed and horror-stricken, at the body of a woman dead at the foot of the steps.

"I am your prisoner," says Don José to an officer. "I killed her." Then, throwing himself over the body, he cries:

"Carmen! -- Carmen! I love you! -- Speak to me! -- I adore you!"

At its production at the Opéra Comique, "Carmen" was a failure. In view of the world-wide popularity the work was to achieve, that failure has become historic. It had, however, one lamentable result. Bizet, utterly depressed and discouraged, died exactly three months after the production, and before he could have had so much as an inkling of the success "Carmen" was to obtain. It was not until four months after his death that the opera, produced in Vienna, celebrated its first triumph. Then came Brussels, London, New York. At last, in 1883, "Carmen" was brought back to Paris for what Pierre Berton calls "the brilliant reparation." But Bizet, mortally wounded in his pride as an artist, had died disconsolate. The "reparation" was to the public, not to him.

Whoever will take the trouble to read extracts from the reviews in the Paris press of the first performance of "Carmen" will find that the score of this opera, so full of well rounded, individual, and distinctive melodies -- ensemble, concerted, and solo -- was considered too Wagnerian. More than one trace of this curious attitude toward an opera, in which the melodies, or tunes, if you choose so to call them, crowd upon each other almost as closely as in "Il trovatore," and certainly are as numerous as in "Aida," still can be found in the article on "Carmen" in the Dictionnaire des Opéras, one of the most unsatisfactory essays in that work. Nor, speaking with the authority of Berton, who saw the second performance, was the failure due to defects in the cast. He speaks of Galli-Marie (Carmen), Chapuis (Micaela), Lherie (Don José), and Bouhy (Escamillo), as "equal to their tasks. . . an admirable quartet."

America has had its Carmen periods. Minnie Hauck established an individuality in the role, which remained potent until the appearance in this country of Calvé. When Grau wanted to fill the house, all he had to do was to announce Calvé as Carmen. She so dominated the character with her beauty, charm, diablerie, and vocal art that, after she left the Metropolitan Opera House, it became impossible to revive the opera there with success, until Farrar made her appearance in it, November 19, 1914, with Alda as Micaela, Caruso as Don José, and Amato as Escamillo.

A season or two before Oscar Hammerstein gave "Carmen" at the Manthattan Opera House, a French company, which was on its last legs when it struck New York, appeared in a performance of "Carmen" at the Casino, and the next day went into bankruptcy. The Carmen was Bressler-Gianoli. Her interpretation brought out the coarse fibre in the character, and was so much the opposite of Calvé’s. that it was interesting by contrast. It seemed that had the company been able to survive, "Carmen" could have been featured in its repertoire, by reason of Bressler-Gianoli’s grasp of the character as Merimée had drawn it in his novel, where Carmen is of a much coarser personality than in the opera. The day after the performance I went to see Heinrich Conried, then director of the Metropolitan Opera House,and told him of the impression she had made, but he did not engage her. The Carmen of Bressler-Gianoli (with Dalmores, Trentini, Ancona, and Gilibert) was one of the principal successes of the Manhattan Opera House. It was first given December 14, 1906, and scored the record for the season with nineteen performances, "Aida" coming next with twelve, and "Rigoletto" with eleven.

Mary Garden’s Carmen is distinctive and highly individualized on the acting side. It lacks however the lusciousness of voice, the vocal lure, that a singer must lavish upon the role to make it a complete success.

One of the curiosities of opera in America was the appearance at the Metropolitan Opera House, November 25, 1885, of Lilli Lehmann as Carmen.

A word is due Bizet’s authors for the admirable libretto they have made from Merimée’s novel. The character of Carmen is, of course, the creation of the novelist. But in his book the Toreador is not introduced until almost the very end, and is but one of a succession of lovers whom Carmen has had since she ensnared Don José. In the opera the Toreador is made a principal character, and figures prominently from the second act on. Micaela, so essential for contrast in the opera, both as regards plot and music, is a creation of the librettists. But their masterstroke is the placing of the scene of the murder just outside the arena where the bullfight is in progress, and in having Carmen killed by Don José at the moment Escamillo is acclaimed victor by the crowd within. In the book he slays her on a lonely road outside the city of Cordova the day after the bullfight.

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