In four acts by GEORGE BIZET.
This opera is essentially Spanish. The music throughout has a southern
character and is passionate and original to a high degree.
Carmen, the heroine is a Spanish gipsy, fickle and wayward, but endowed
with all the wild graces of her nation. She is adored by her people,
and so it is not to be wondered at, that she has many of the stronger
sex at her feet. She is betrothed to Don Jose, a brigadier of the
Spanish army; of course he is one out of many; she soon grows tired of
him, and awakens his jealousy by a thousand caprices and cruelties.
Don Jose has another bride, sweet and lovely, Micaela, waiting for him
at home, but she is forgotten as soon as he sees the proud gipsy.
Micaela seeks him out, bringing to him the portrait and the benediction
of his mother, ay, even her kiss, which she gives him with blushes.
His tenderness is gone, however, so far as Micaela is concerned, as
soon as he casts one look into the lustrous eyes of Carmen. This
passionate creature has involved herself in a quarrel and wounded one
of her companions, a laborer in a cigarette manufactory. She is to be
taken to prison, but Don Jose lets her off, promising to meet her in
the evening at an inn kept by a man named Lillas Pastia, where they are
to dance the Seguedilla.
In the second act we find them there together, with the whole band of
gipsies. Don Jose, more and more infatuated by Carmen's charms, is
willing to join the vagabonds, who are at the same time smugglers. He
accompanies them in a dangerous enterprise of this kind, but no sooner
has he submitted to sacrifice love and honor for the gipsy, than she
begins to tire of his attentions. Jose has pangs of conscience, he
belongs to another sphere of society and his feelings are of a softer
kind than those of nature's unruly child. She transfers her affections
to a bull-fighter named Escamillo, another of her suitors, who returns
her love more passionately. A quarrel ensues between the two rivals.
Escamillo's knife breaks and he is about to be killed by Don Jose, when
Carmen intervenes, holding back his arm. Don Jose, seeing that she has
duped him, now becomes her deadly foe, filled with undying hatred and
longing for revenge.
Micaela, the tender-hearted maiden, who follows him everywhere like a
guardian-angel, reminds him of his lonely mother, everybody advises him
to let the fickle Carmen alone,--Carmen who never loved the same man
for more than six weeks. But in vain, till Micaela tells him of
the dying mother, asking incessantly for her son; then at last he
consents to go with her, but not without wild imprecations on his rival
and his faithless love.
In the fourth act we find ourselves in Madrid. There is to be a
bull-fight; Escamillo, its hero, has invited the whole company to be
present in the circus.
Don Jose appears there too, trying for the last time to regain his
bride. Carmen, though warned by a fellow gipsy, Frasquita, knows no
fear. She meets her old lover outside the arena, where he tries hard
to touch her heart. He kneels at her feet, vowing never to forsake her
and to be one of her own people, but Carmen, though wayward, is neither
a coward nor a liar, and boldly declares that her affections are given
to the bull-fighter, whose triumphs are borne to their ears on the
shouts of the multitude. Almost beside himself with love and rage Jose
seizes her hand and attempts to drag her away, but she escapes from
him, and throwing the ring, Jose's gift, at his feet, rushes to the
door of the arena.--He overtakes her however and just as the trumpets
announce Escamillo's victory, in a perfect fury of despair he stabs her
through the heart, and the victorious bull-fighter finds his beautiful
bride a corpse.
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