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Carmen

Updated: May 10, 2021

by Bizet


[This synopsis, like my others, is very, very brief. The reason is that I find the normal programme note much too long, and needlessly detailed and complicated. What I want is more of an overview. If I’ve read an overview – a sort of synopsis of a synopsis – I find that, particularly with the help of surtitles, there is then absolutely no need for a blow-by-blow description of the plot.]


The opera is about sex and its dangers. It is set in and around Seville.


Carmen is a gypsy girl, keen to display her sexiness at every opportunity and to entrap her conquests. Her main conquest is Don José, a corporal in the local guard – but not her last.


Don José has a girlfriend back home called Micaëla, who comes looking for him.


Carmen works in the local cigarette factory and gets involved in a fight with the other cigarette girls. Don José has to arrest her, but – mesmerised by her - lets her escape. He is then arrested and imprisoned.


When he gets released, he finds that his superior officer, Zuniga, is also pursuing Carmen. He attacks Zuniga and, as a result, has to desert the army and join up with the local smugglers in the neighbouring mountains.


Another of Carmen’s admirers is the bullfighter Escamillo. He turns up at the smugglers’ camp and gets into a fight with Don José. The fight is broken up and he invites them all to his next bullfight.


At the bullfight, Escamillo arrives with Carmen. As the bullfight is going on, Don José confronts Carmen. She rejects him. He stabs her (“damnée”) and, as Escamillo is being acclaimed by the crowds, she dies. Don José gives himself up (“ma Carmen adorée!”).


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