"Votre Toast"

The Toreador's Song - To your Health!

Your toast ... I return it to you!
Señors, Señors, because you soldiers, yes are like bullfighters!
For fun they have fights.
The arena is full, it's a holiday. The arena is full from top to bottom.
The spectators losing their heads, the spectators yell at each other:
Exclamations, shouting and noise! What a furore!
For this is a fiesta of courage, It's a fiesta of the brave-hearted!
Come on, on guard! Come on! Come on! Ah!

Toreador, on guard,
Toreador, toreador,
And think well, yes think that while you are fighting
That your black-eyed woman is watching you
And that love is waiting for you!

All at once they are silent;
Ah! What is happening?
No more shouts; it's the moment.
The bull hurls himself, bounding out of the pen.
He charges, he enters, he strikes.
A horse rolls over, dragging down a picador!
Ah bravo toro ! yells the crowd.
The bull goes ... he comes back... he strikes again!
Trying to shake off the lances, full of fury, he runs!
The arena is full of blood;
Men leap clear, they bound over the barricades.
It's your turn now!
Come on, on guard! Come on! Come on!

One of the most famous pieces from Bizet's Carmen, the Toreador's Song captures the excitement and triumph of dangerous, competitive sport. In fact, the theme is used on the podium of all Formula One races! This aria is Escamillo's first entrance in the opera, where he and Carmen size each other up and are drawn to each other – alpha character to alpha character – even as Carmen continues her flirtation with Don José and Escamillo revels in his celebrity and charisma.

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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