3. "Habanera"

L'amour est un oiseau rebelle - Love is like a rebellious bird

Love is a rebellious bird
that no one can tame,
and you summon it in vain
if it wants to refuse.

Nothing moves it, no threat nor plea,
one man speaks,
the other keeps quiet;
and it's the other I prefer:
he's said nothing, but it’s him I like.
Love! Love! Love! Love!
Love is a gypsy child,
it has never heard of laws.
If you don't love me, I love you;
but if I love you, watch out!

The bird you thought
to catch unawares
beat its wings and flew away –
love's far away,
and you can wait for it:
but you wait no longer –
and there it is!
All around you, quickly, quickly,
it comes, it goes, then it returns -
you think you can hold it,
it evades you,
you think to evade it,
it holds you fast.

Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most popular and familiar operas. When Bizet created Carmen, he broke operatic convention by celebrating proletarian and immoral ways of life. He also vividly brought to life the character of Carmen (almost a side note in the original story) as a complex, proud and spirited woman who strove at every turn to claim independence and agency in her life, love and friendships.

Carmen and the gypsies seek a bohemian life, finding freedom outside of the law. José, drawn to Carmen and this unconventional world, is torn between love, duty and honour. Micaëla, innocent and pious, represents a simpler way of life, and the charismatic bullfighter Escamillo, in many ways also free of society’s restrictions, soon becomes a rival for Carmen’s affections.

The dramatic resolution of the opera’s story was shocking and unconventional in depicting such violence on stage at its premiere in 1875. Just as shocking is that this tragedy is still pertinent today, where the simple act of saying ‘no’ too often turns love and passion into abuse and fatal revenge.

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