Saturday 24 May 2008

Carmen: my first experience of opera

Don't know exactly what to talk about today, it's a bank holiday weekend, we are going to watch Eurovision tonight, but I am not in the mood to talk about it. It is beautiful outside, it's hot and sunny, I am feeling like listening to some opera. I thought I'd talk about the first time I discovered it.

When I was 5 ot 6, my parents got a record of the opera Carmen, by Georges Bizet. I was blown away. I am not a big fan of XIXth century music, but I always loved and always will love Carmen. It's a great opera, the story is brilliant and the music and arias actually make the plot move forwards. Because of its dramatic efficiency, it was no surprise that Carmen got adapted so often on the big screen. My dad got us watch the 1984 adaptation by Francesco Rosi when it was released, in a little cinema in Chicoutimi, now closed. There was hardly anybody in the theater, but I was enthralled by the story, for me it was like watching Ben Hur on its first day. I still love the adaptation (which you can find on youtube). You can find the original shortstory by Mérimée here. Plot-wise, it's very different from the opera, but the main elements and themes are here and it's quite interesting in itself.

I will give you a bit of the movie, the Habanera, a song about the nature of love, where Carmen is both sensual and cynical:


holly wynne said...

I'm not much for opera, usually, but the music from Carmen always manages to take my breath away. I hope to see it live someday.

Guillaume said...

Carmen is a great way for somebody who is not into opera to learn about it and appreciate it. I think it's probably one of the best operas a beginner should start with (there is Mozart's Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte too). What works so well in Carmen is not only the great evocative music, but the way it is in symbiosis with the plot. That's why it makes such good cinema. And what characters it has! Carmen is the archetype of the femme fatale, Don José is a perfect "bandit d'honneur", and there is Michaëlla, Escamillo, so many small roles that are unforgettable.