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3 March 1875: Premiere of Carmen

Carmen is one of the most frequently performed operas .
Carmen is one of the most frequently performed operas . / SUR
  • The opera composed by Georges Bizet has become one of the most successful in history

On 3 March 1875, French composer, Georges Bizet, premiered what was to become one of the most successful works in the entire opera repertoire.

Bizet achieved few successes before the grand production of Carmen, a love story about a naïve soldier called Don José, who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery Gypsy.

After disobeying orders to incarcerate Carmen following an incident at the cigarette factory where she is employed, Don José deserts the army and joins a band of smugglers.

Don José eventually stabs Carmen through the heart in a jealous rage after losing her love to a glamorous bullfighter called Escamollio.

Set to a backdrop of the cigarette factory, back street taverns and the mountain ranges of Ronda, the story is spun around the seedy world of the nineteenth century Andalusian gypsies.

Carmen embodies the spirit of Seville, especially the flamenco, bullfighting and banditry; elements that attracted the attention of numerous nineteenth century romantic travellers.

Bizet based his four-act opera on Prosper Mérimée's 1845 novella of the same name.

It was not at first well received, largely due to its controversial main characters, which shocked and outraged its first audiences.

The general tone of the press reviews ranged from disappointment to indignation. The more conservative critics complained that the heroine was an amoral seductress. One critic wrote that Carmen was 'the very incarnation of vice'.

The cast of Carmen, which premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on Wednesday 3 March 1875, consisted of some of the top opera performers of that time.

Célestine Galli-Marié took the main role of Carmen, while Don José was played by Paul Lhérie.

Bizet, who had never visited Spain, sought to provide an authentic Spanish flavour to his music. He used genuine folk song as the source for his score, utilising the rhythms and instrumentation associated with flamenco music.

Carmen has since been performed by numerous flamenco troupes: celebrated artists like Antonio Gades, Cristina Hoyos and Carmen Amaya have taken the production to all corners of the globe.

Carmen promoted the Andalusian tapestry to the outside world and it became so popular and revered, the image of Carmen-ised Andalusia has been hard to escape ever since.

The famous tobacco factory is as potent an architectural symbol as the Alhambra is of Granada.

Now the city's university, this emblematic eighteenth century building still lures modern-day travellers in search of the legend of Carmen.

Unfortunately, Bizet died before his opera became an international success, and so he would never have known that Carmen would gain outstanding acclaim. It is now one of the most popular and frequently-performed operas.

Estreno Premiere

Música Music

Compositor Composer

Gitana Gypsy

Criticado Criticised

Entrada Ticket

Éxito Success

Corazón Heart

Soldado Soldier

Apuñalar To stab

Contrabandista Smuggler

Ingenuo Naïve

Celoso Jealous

Reparto Cast

Escenario Stage

Desertor Deserter

Morir To die

Escándalo Scandal

Amotinarse To revolt