The four-act opera by Georges Bizet, who died young, during its first run in 1875. It was badly received at first, and he never knew what a spectacular success it would be, with the the infectious and erotic gypsy rhythms of the habañera (Carmen's song L'Amour est un oiseau rebelle, "Love is a rebellious bird") and the toreador's song. Another popular number from it is the Chanson bohème or Les tringles des sistres tintaient.

Based on the 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée, the opera had a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy (nephew of Bizet's teacher and father-in-law Fromental Halévy). It premièred at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, and ran there for 37 performances, but Bizet died on 3 June, the night of either its 23rd or 31st performance, depending on which book I read, sorry. (Oxford says 23rd, Everyman 31st.)

It was performed in German in Vienna later in 1875, with alterations by Ernest Guiraud, using recitative in place of the original spoken dialogue parts. It was this version which became a success in London and New York in 1878.

Carmen tells of the tragic conflict between the soldier Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo for the affections of the beautiful gypsy Carmen, who works in a cigarette factory in Seville, around 1820. Don José flees his commanding officer and joins her and the smugglers in hiding in the mountains, but she taunts him with her increasing preference for Escamillo. The two men fight. At the end, after a bullfight, she spurns José, who stabs her.

More recently a ballet of it was created by Rodion Shchedrin.

Spanish director Carlos Saura created the film Carmen in collaboration with flamenco dancer Antonio Gades, the second of three films they made together now collectively referred to as the Saura "dance trilogy."

These include:

The action of the film centers around Antonio (Antonio Gades), leader of a dance troupe, who is seeking the perfect dancer to play the role of Carmen in his production. He finds her in the semi-demonic young woman of the same name, and his life moves in parallel to the novel's storyline--evil woman, jealous man, unhappy ending.

I am not a dancer. Previous to watching this movie, had you asked me to list art forms, dance would have been added only as an afterthought. However, this film made me understand dance as a mode of expression in a way I never had before. It made me actually get up and attempt to dance (luckily where no one could see me). The fire of romance, the insanity of jealousy, the pain, the desire . . . watch this or one of the other dance trilogy films if you can.

Availability in the US is not great. I ended up buying the (very) rare DVD over Ebay.

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