Bizet's Carmen

updated for the 1990s by Denis Dutton
The first scene takes place in a square in Seville. Young factory workers spill into the street for their morning break of fresh fruit. One of them, the dark Gypsy Carmen, sings a lovely habanera, reminding us that love occurs between all genders, races and body types. Before returning to the factory, Carmen throws a rose to the Basque soldier, Don Jose. A fight breaks out between two of the young persons in the factory, and while trying to instruct them on the futility of violence, Carmen is arrested. Don Jose is ordered to guard her, but she convinces him to allow her to escape, explaining that they are all victims of patriarchal oppression.

The second act opens in the smoke-free environment of a vegetarian restaurant. Carmen and ethnically-diverse friends are enjoying whole-meal buns when they are interrupted by the wicked Escamillo, a rich and famous bullfighter. Escamillo sings an aria in praise of wine, cigars, thick steaks and women. This disgusts the young people, although Carmen is strangely attracted to the bullfighter. Don Jose arrives and, alone at last, he and Carmen vow to live together. They will respect the importance of protected sex and acknowledge each other's unique cultural identity. Don Jose will do the ironing.

The third act opens in a wild place in the mountains. Carmen, Don Jose and other members of the Animal Liberation Collective are plotting to end the exploitation of bulls. Don Jose is enraged when Carmen nobly volunteers to seduce Escamillo, so exhausting him that he will be unable effectively to fight in the bullring. Carmen patiently explains that the lives of many bulls, and the contentedness of cows, is at stake. Escamillo enters and begins a duel with Don Jose, but the Collective intervenes, insisting that the two men find viable nonviolent means to settle their dispute. The jealous Don Jose must seek anger-management counselling.

The final scene returns to Seville. Escamillo's colourful procession enters the bullring. A dishevelled Don Jose confronts Carmen. He is suffering from low self-esteem. Counselling has only made his anger worse, recovering repressed childhood memories of satanic rituals, where he was forced to drink blood, eat babies, and smoke cheap, unfiltered cigarettes. Acknowledging his trauma, Carmen insists he begin the healing process by getting a bath and a shave. The two lovers embrace and detail plans to offer workshops in cultural identity and empowerment. The bull wins. Closure.

Back up to Heather Has Two Mommies.

Reader's Comments

music's ok,

but if you see the movie Carmen (1983), it's enough to put you off opera forever

-- asrkjti'ohra/ --, December 1, 1997

I supose you don4t mean the part were julia rolls the cigar alongs her legs !

-- Antsnio Castro da Silva --, November 24, 1998
It is apparent that the people who place comments on this page are exactly the kind of people who have plagued musicians for centuries and have driven many composers to the edge. To those people, Verdi's "Otello" was written for you. Bizet's Carmen is a fantastic example of setting and music and it was a smash hit in London, St. Petersberg, Brussels, Naples, Florence and around the world. If you aren't intelligent enough to be able to see the genius in a composers art, then just shut the hell up because you could not do better if you had a thousand years to try.

-- Joshua Carter, December 2, 1998
I think that Bizet's Carmen is a wonderful Opera, I enjoyed every minute of it and the music is great. I'm only 16, yet I appriciate the beauty that George Bizet put into this tragic love story.

-- Julie Young, April 12, 1999

Right on, Joshua. Freedom of speech should be reserved only for us intelligentsia types who can appreciate culture like opera, ballet, fingerpainting, etc. and all that other boring crap.

-- jim frandsen, September 29, 1999

Bizet's Carmen is truly one of Opera's greatest masterpieces - the man was a legend, a true god of music. I often wonder why there is no cult religion that dress up in spanish clothes and worship one of his photographs every sunday,for no man deserves divinity as much as Bizet!

-- Charles Pinkilton, October 29, 1999
I have to say that Bizet's Carmen is one of the GREATEST operas ever written!!! I was in Carmen with Opera Ontario in 1997 and absolutely loved it!! Jean Stilwell was AMAZING!! I subscribed for season's tickets the following year (at age 17), and I suggest that EVERYONE do the same!! Opera is an incredible art form that everyone can benefit from!!! SO, GO TO THE OPERA!!

-- Mandi Cox, February 14, 2001
It doesn't matter how old you are I am 18 now and have been going to the opera by my self since I was 12. Opera takes a true poetic sould full of spirit and appreciation for the old world.

-- Eric Lau, April 11, 2001
I have a French class and I am 17 as of now...after 4 years of french i have had an all around distaste for it and its entirety. Carmen in french is the ultimately dull and boring, but i believe i would find the play to be more interesting if i go and see it for myslef. From what everyone else has said, i have an idea as to what to expect...i'm curious.

-- Iheanyi Ahukanna, May 21, 2001

the REAL Carmen (when understood) Is far more artful than some p.c. watred down bullshit, but I realize this is a joke.but trouble is in jest their lies a grain of truth..AHH but P.C. assholes cannot accept truth, it is very distateful and likewise convicts them that they are GASP* dare i say, WRONG!!

-- Paul youguessandyouwin, June 9, 2001

Hello, I'm in Grade 8, and I'm doing a speech on Georges Bizet. I have come across your page. I would like to say it is very well done. I found almost all the information I needed. Birth date - death date, Birthplace, How old Bizet was when he first started composing, Family Info, Main Instruments, other Instuments, the kind of music he wrote, and Most famous composition. All I needed more is his teachers, other composers that influenced him, instruments that were in the orchestras then, who hired him to compose or other interesting facts on trivia. I just wanted to say thanks for putting your page out. ~Carmen

-- Carmen Codiak, June 10, 2002
As a lover of all types of music I came to opera late. Last year unplanned we ended up in the amphitheatre in Verona, Carmen was being performed. Anybody who has a pulse must submit to the entire ambience of this opera in it's true setting under the stars, a true masterpiece of artisic composition -there's even a good storyline for any artistic Philistines. As an optimist I trust all doubters will come across one day.

-- CJC Group, January 7, 2003
Carmen is definately good, even great. But one great piece of work is not enough to call Bizet a "god." I have to stick up for my man Mozart. As far as vocal music goes, you can't beat Wolfgang.

-- Michael Wyatt, October 24, 2003
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