Carmen was a scandal at its premiere but soon after became a triumphal success and has remained one of the most frequently staged operas in the world.
Metropolitan Opera Season: Carmen
Bizet’s masterpiece of the gypsy seductress who lives by her own rules has had an impact far beyond the opera house. The opera’s melodic sweep is as irresistible as the title character herself, a force of nature who has become a defining female cultural figure.
Clémentine Margaine (Carmen), Roberto Alagna (Don José), Aleksandra Kurzak (Michaëla), Alexander Vinogradov (Escamillo), Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra conducted by Louis Langrée
Georges Bizet (1838–1875) was known as a brilliant student and prodigy, but his works only found lasting success after his untimely death - most notably Carmen, which premiered three months before he died. The libretto is based on a novella by Prosper Mérimée (1803–1870), a French dramatist, historian, and archaeologist.
The opera takes place in and around Seville, a city that, by the time Carmen was written, had already served many operatic composers as an exotic setting conducive to erotic intrigues and turmoil.
The hometown of Don Juan, the city also inspired Mozart with Don Giovanni, and Beethoven used Seville as the setting for a study of marital fidelity in Fidelio.
The score of Carmen contains so many instantly recognizable tunes that it can be easy to overlook how well constructed it is. The major solos are excellent combinations of arresting melody and dramatic purpose—from the baritone’s famous Toreador Song to the tenor’s wrenching 'Flower Song' to the title character’s alluring 'Habanera' and 'Seguidilla' - and the duets and ensembles are equally beguiling.