By Georges Bizet
Set in Seville around the year 1830, the opera deals with the love and jealousy of Don José, who is lured away from his duty as a soldier and his beloved Micaëla by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody. He is later induced to join the smugglers with whom Carmen is associated, but is driven wild by jealousy. This comes to a head when Carmen makes clear her preference for the bull-fighter Escamillo. The last act, outside the bull-ring in Seville, brings Escamillo to the arena, accompanied by Carmen, there stabbed to death by Don José, who has been awaiting her arrival.
Carmen, the most famous of Bizet's operas, with its exotic Spanish setting, introduced a note of realism into opera that proved unacceptable to many who saw the first performances. Objection was taken to the wild and immoral behaviour of Carmen, the chorus of cigarette factory- girls and their smoking and the final murder of Carmen on the stage. Orchestral suites have been derived from the score, while popular excerpts must include Carmen's seductive Habanera and Séguidilla, the famous Toreador's Song and Don José's later reference to the flower Carmen had once thrown him, La fleur que tu m'avais jetée (The flower that you threw me), with Micaëla's moving aria Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante (I say that nothing frightens me).