Summary of Georges Bizet. Carmen

Summary of Georges Bizet. Carmen


Opera in four acts

Libretto by A. Meliak and L. Halevy


Carmen, a gypsy woman, a cigar factory worker

Don Jose, foreman

Escamillo, the Toreador

Mezzo soprano










Without singing

Without singing





Tsuniga, the captain

Morales, sergeant

Micaela, bride of Jose





girlfriends Carmen

Lilas-Pastia, the tavern-keeper


Officers, soldiers, street boys, cigar factory workers, young people, gypsies and gypsies, smugglers, toreadors, picadors, people.

The action takes place in Spain, around 1820.


Bizet began working on the opera “Carmen” in 1874. The plot is borrowed from the eponymous short story by the French writer Prosper Merimee (1803-1870), written in 1845. The content of the novel has undergone significant changes in the opera. Experienced literary men A. Meliak (1831-1897) and L. Halevy (1834-1908) masterfully developed the libretto, sated it with drama, deepened emotional contrasts, created convex images of actors, largely different from their literary prototypes. Jose, portrayed by the writer as a grim, proud and stern robber, acquired other features in the opera; A peasant boy who became a dragoon, he is shown by a simple, honest, but quick-tempered and weak-willed person. The image of the strong-willed, brave bullfighter Escamillo, barely outlined in the novel, received a bright and juicy description in the opera. Even more developed in comparison with the literary prototype is the image of the bride of Jose Mikaela

– a gentle and affectionate girl, whose appearance shades the unbridled and passionate nature of the gypsy. Essentially changed and the image of the main character. Carmen in opera is the embodiment of female beauty and charm, passionate love of spirit and courage. Cunning, thievish business – these features of Carmen short stories Merimee in the opera were eliminated. Bizet ennobled the character of his heroine, emphasizing in it the directness of feelings and the independence of actions. And, finally, by expanding the scope of the narrative, the opera’s authors introduced colorful national scenes. The life of the temperamental, motley crowd under the burning sun of the south, the romantic figures of gypsies and smugglers, the elevated atmosphere of bullfighting with particular acuity and brightness are emphasized in the opera by the original characters of Carmen, Jose, Mikaela and Escamillo, dramatism of their destinies. The aegis of the scene gave the tragic plot an optimistic sound.

The premiere of “Carmen” was held in Paris on March 3, 1875, and had no success. The author was accused of immorality: the free expression of the feelings of heroes – ordinary people from the people – was perverse to sanctimonious bourgeois morality. One of the first among the great contemporaries of Bizet music “Carmen” praised PI Tchaikovsky. “Opera Bizet,” he wrote, “is a masterpiece, one of the few things that are destined to reflect in itself the strongest musical aspirations of an era.” In ten years, Carmen will be the most popular opera in the world. ” These words turned out to be prophetic. If in 1876 Carmen disappeared for a long time from the repertoire of the Parisian theaters, then abroad – in Vienna (1875), Petersburg (1878) and many other European cities, its success was truly triumphal. In Paris, the production of “Carmen”


On the town square in Seville, near the cigar factory, there is a guard post. In the crowded crowd, dragoons, street boys, workers of a cigar factory with their beloved flit through. Carmen appears. Temperamental and courageous, she used to rule over everyone. Meeting with the dragoon Jose awakens her passion. Her habaner – a song of free love – sounds like a challenge to Jose, and a flower thrown at his feet promises love. The arrival of Jose Mikaela’s bride for a while makes him forget about the daring gypsy. He remembers his native village, his house, his mother, he surrenders to bright dreams. Again, Carmen breaks the peace. This time, she finds herself guilty of a quarrel at the factory, and Jose must take her to prison. But the charms of the gypsy are all-powerful. Conquered by them, Jose violates the order and helps Carmen escape.

In the tavern of Lilas-Pastia, the fun is in full swing. This is the place of secret meetings of smugglers, helped by Carmen. Together with her friends Frascita and Mercedes, she spends her free time in songs and dances. The welcome guest of the tavern is the bullfighter Escamillo. He is always cheerful, confident and brave. His life is full of anxieties, the struggle in the arena is dangerous, but the sweet and reward of the hero is the glory and love of the beauties. It’s getting dark. Visitors leave the tavern. Under cover of night, smugglers gather for risky fishing. This time Carmen refuses to go with them. She’s waiting for a friend. Jose comes to the tavern, but the joy of meeting them is short-lived. The military horn calls the dragoon to the barracks. In his soul, passion struggles with duty. Carmen is indignant. A quarrel is brewing between lovers. Unexpectedly appears Tsuniga – the head of Jose, he hopes for the favor of Carmen. In a fit of jealousy, Jose unearths his sword. The military oath is broken, the path to return to the barracks is cut off. Jose remains with Carmen to start a new life full of anxieties and dangers.

At night, in the mountains, smugglers staged a halt. Carmen and Jose are with them. The quarrel in the tavern is not forgotten. Too great is the difference between lovers. Dreaming of the quiet life of the peasant, Jose suffers from betrayal of duty, from yearning for his home. Only passionate love for Carmen keeps him in the smugglers’ camp. But Carmen no longer loves Jose, the gap between them is inevitable. Something will tell her the cards? They predicted happiness to her friends, only Carmen fate does not promise joy: she read the death sentence on her cards. With deep sorrow she reflects on the future. Suddenly, Escamillo comes – he hurries on a date with Carmen. Jose blocks his path. Jealousy and resentment break out in the soul of a dragoon. Carmen stops the contest of rivals. At this moment Jose notes to Mikaela, who, having overcome fear, came to the camp of smugglers to take Jose away. Jose does not listen to her. Only the news brought by Mikaela about the deadly illness of the mother makes Jose leave Carmen. But their meeting is ahead.

A bright sunny day. The square in Seville is full of people. The participants are eagerly awaiting the start of the bullfight. They cheerfully and joyfully greet the procession of the heroes of the bullfight, led by the common favorite Escamillo. Welcomes him and Carmen. She is attracted to the cheerful, brave Escamillo. Frascit and Mercedes warn Carmen of the imminent danger: Jose is following her steadily. Carmen does not listen to them; she rushes to the circus. Jose stops her. Gently, with love, he turns to Carmen. Jose does not believe that she has fallen out of love. But Carmen’s answer is inexorable: between them it’s all over. “Free was born – free and I will die,” she proudly throws into Jose’s face. In a fit of anger, he stabs Carmen. By death, she claims her freedom.


“Carmen” – one of the masterpieces of opera. Music, full of life and light, vividly affirms the freedom of the human person. Deeply truthful drama of clashes and conflicts. The heroes of the opera are depicted juicy, temperamentally, in all the psychological complexity of the characters. With great skill recreated the national Spanish flavor and the drama effect. The strength of Carmen’s optimism lies in the inextricable inner connection between heroes and the people.

The opera opens with an overture in which the images of sunny Spain, the jubilant folk festival and the tragic fate of Carmen are juxtaposed.

The beginning of the first act is serene and clear. The opening folk scenes are rich in movement and colors: a choir of soldiers, a fervent march of boys. The chorus of girls, factory workers, prepares the output of Carmen. Her habaner “Love, like a bird, wings” is close to the proud Spanish songs-dances. The duet of Mikaela and Jose “I remember the day in the mountains” is kept in idyllic tones. The song about the menacing husband, seguidily and the duet Carmen and Jose create a multi-faceted image of the freedom-loving gypsy.

The second act, like all subsequent acts, is preceded by a colorful symphonic interlude. The gypsy dance, opening the act, is full of incendiary fun. Energetic, courageous march Escamillo “Toast, friends, I’ll take yours” (his music first sounded in the overture) depicts the brave hero of the bullfight. Quintet smugglers (with the participation of Carmen) “If we need to cheat” is sustained in an easy, mobile character. The duet of Carmen and Jose is the most important stage of the opera, the collision of two human wills, characters, views on life and love. The embodiment of the heroes’ life ideals is the “aria about the flower” by Jose (“You see how sacred I preserve the flower that you gave me”) and the song of Carmen, her anthem to freedom “There, back to your native mountains.” If the characteristic of Jose is dominated by the elements of a song-romance, emphasizing his spiritual softness, the unruly spirit of Carmen reveals itself in the temperamental rhythms and tunes of Spanish folk songs. The act ends with a melody of the freedom-loving song of Carmen, sounding at the choir.

The symphonic interlude to the third act draws a poetic picture of nature – the peace and quiet of the slumbering mountains. Gloomy-guarded sextet with a chorus-march of smugglers “Go ahead, braver on the road, friends, go!” – and the other chorus – a lively, cheerful character “Do not be afraid of us soldiers of customs” outline the world in which Carmen and Jose live. The central episode of the third act is the divination scene (tercet); the cheerful chirping of Frascita and Mercedes shades the mournful meditation of Carmen, who appears here in an unusual, tragic appearance. Lyrical aria Mikaela “I assure myself vainly” acquires a decisive character. The meeting between Jose and Escamillo creates a dramatic increase and prepares the culmination of the third act (the break of Carmen with Jose). The final act conveys the sinister suspicion and tension of the situation, foreshadowing the imminent outcome.

The symphonic interlude to the fourth act, sustained in the character of the Spanish folk dance “polo”, is one of the remarkable examples of the penetration of Bizet into the spirit of folk music. The act falls into two halves: the personal drama of the heroes opposes the pictures of the bright, brightly colored folk festival; life contrasts are extremely naked. The action opens with a lively folk scene, reminiscent of its bright and sunny color, the beginning of the opera. The solemn-heroic march and chorus accompany the triumphal procession of Escamillo. The melody of the duo Escamillo and Carmen “If you love, Carmen” flows full and freely. In the second half of the act, especially in the duet of Jose and Carmen, the dramatic tension is rapidly growing. Throughout the scene, the contrast of popular jubilation and personal drama intensifies,

Summary of Georges Bizet. Carmen