Last night we went to see Carmen at the Royal Opera House Muscat…..We enjoyed it a lot!
The story is set in Seville, Spain, around 1820, and is about Carmen, a beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she falls in and out of love very quickly!!!!
A square in Seville. On the right a cigarette factory, on the left a guard house, with a bridge at the back.
Moralès and the soldiers loiter before the guard house commenting on passers-by because they are bored and have nothing better to do!!!!….. Micaëla (a village girl) appears seeking Don José, a corporal from her same village, but is told by Moralès that he is not yet on duty, so why does she not stay and wait with them? She runs away saying that she will return later. Zuniga and José arrive with the new guard, imitated by a crowd of street-children.
The factory bell rings and the cigarette girls emerge from the factory, greeted by young men who have gathered to flirt with them (“La cloche a sonné”). The girls enter smoking cigarettes, and finally Carmen appears, and all the men ask her when she will love them (“Quand je vous aimerai?”). She replies in the famous Habanera which is one of my favorite arias (“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”): “Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame … He has never known law. If you don’t love me I love you, if I love you watch yourself!” When they plead for her to choose a lover from among them, (“Carmen! sur tes pas, nous nous pressons tous!”) she removes a rose from her hair and throws it at Don José, who has been ignoring or avoiding her, before going back into the factory with the others.
Micaëla returns and gives him a letter as well as a kiss from his mother. José longingly thinks of his home, and reading the letter sees that his mother wants him to return and get married. Micaëla is embarrassed and leaves, but Don José declares that he will marry her.
As soon as she leaves, screams are heard from the factory and the women run out screaming. Don José and Zuniga find that Carmen has been fighting with another woman, and slashed her face with a knife. Zuniga asks Carmen if she has anything to say, but she replies impudently with a song (“Tra la la”). Zuniga instructs José to guard her while he writes out the warrant for prison. The women go back into the factory and the soldiers go back to the guardhouse. To escape, Carmen seduces José ……. José resists in the beginning but relents and unties her hands. Zuniga returns, and Carmen allows herself to be led away but turns, pushes José to the ground….José lets her escape and as a result is put in jail!!!
Evening at Lillas Pastia’s inn, tables scattered around; officers and Gypsies relaxing after dinner
Two months have passed. Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès sing and dance. Lillas Pastia is trying to get rid of the officers, so Zuniga invites Carmen and her friends to come with him to the theatre, but she can only think of José, who was demoted and has been in jail since letting her escape, and was released the day before.
The sound of a procession hailing Escamillo the bull fighter passes by outside, and is invited in ….. He flirts with Carmen, but Carmen tells him that for the time being he need not dream of being hers.
When everyone except Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès have left, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado arrive and tell the girls of their plans to dispose something that they have smuggled via Gibraltar. Carmen refuses to accompany them, saying to their amazement that she is in love…and wants to wait for José because he is being released tonight!!!
José’s voice is heard ……..Dancaïre tells Carmen she must try to get Don José to join them. Alone together, José returns a gold coin Carmen had sent him in jail and she orders fruit and wine to be brought.
Carmen starts dancing with castanets for him alone. But while she is singing and dancing for him, the sound of bugles is heard calling the soldiers back to the barracks.
Carmen’s temper flares when José says he must leave, he tries to make her listen by producing the flower she threw at him two months ago, which he kept with him while he was in prison and is proof of his love…..Carmen is unmoved and asks him to join her gypsy life if he really loves her.
Her picture of a life of freedom tempts him but he finally refuses saying he will never be a deserter. He begins to leave when Zuniga enters hoping to find Carmen. Don José draws his sword on his superior officer, but before they can fight the smugglers burst in and disarm both of them. Zuniga is made a prisoner and José has no alternative but to flee with Carmen.
The smugglers along with Carmen and José are travelling with the contraband……. but by now Carmen has grown tired of José, and does not conceal this, taunting him to return to his village.
At night Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès read their cards: Frasquita and Mercédès foresee love and romance, wealth and luxury; but Carmen’s cards foretell death for both her and José!!!!…..This naturally scares her….. The smugglers ask the girls to come and charm the customs officers and everyone goes off, leaving José to guard the goods.
Micaëla arrives seeking José again!!!……. She sees José firing a gun, and hides. It was Escamillo the bull fighter….it was a close call but José misses him…….José welcomes him, but when he finds out the the bull fighter is also in love with Carmen,José gets furious…
José challenges Escamillo to a knife-fight, but Escamillo fights defensively, infuriating José. Escamillo is saved by the return of the smugglers and Carmen. Escamillo leaves, but invites Carmen and the smugglers to his next bullfight in Seville.
Remendado finds Micaëla hiding, and she tells José that his mother wishes to see him . Carmen mocks him and at first he refuses to go but Micaëla tells him that his mother is dying. Vowing that he will return to Carmen…… he leaves.
A square in front of the arena at Seville: the day of a bull-fight; bustling activity
It is the day of the contest to which Escamillo invited the smugglers and Carmen. The square is full of people, with merchants and Gypsies selling their wares. Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercédès are among the crowd and the girls tell Zuniga that Carmen is now with Escamillo.
The crowd and children sing and cheer on the procession as the cuadrilla. Carmen and Escamillo are greeted by the crowds and express their love to each other, Carmen adding that she had never loved one so much.
After Escamillo has gone into the fight, Frasquita warns Carmen that José is in the crowd, but Carmen scorns their fears. However before she can enter the arena she is confronted by the desperate José.
He begs her to return his love and start a new life with him far away. She calmly replies that she loves doesn’t love him anymore.
Cheers are heard from the bull-ring and Carmen tries to enter, but José blocks her way. He asks her one last time to come back, but she scornfully throws back the ring that he gave to her.
He finally looses it and stabs her …… she dies. Don José kneels in despair beside her. The spectators flock out of the arena and find José, confessing his guilt over her dead body.
The horses that were used in the final act were beautiful and so well trained….which I am not surprised about since they were borrowed from The Royal Stables Of Oman!!!