"Si tu m'aimes, Carmen"

If you love me, Carmen

If you love me, Carmen
soon you can be proud of me.

Ah! I love you, Escamillo, I love you,
and may I die if I have ever loved
someone as much as you!

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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