Carmen - Synopsis
Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
A square in Sevilla. Soldiers are whiling away the time in front of their guardhouse. Micaela enters and asks after Don Jose, who, however, is not expected until the changing of the guard. She says she will return again and runs off as the men laugh at her.
The new guard marches up. Morales tells Jose about the girl who asked after him. From the description Jose realises it is Micaela, an orphan living in his mother‘s house.
Lieutenant Zuniga questions Jose about the reputedly attractive female workers in the nearby tobacco factory. Suddenly the factory bell sounds for a break. The women pour into the square, eagerly watched by the men. They ask after Carmen, the wellknown gypsy. She enters and scornfully throws an acacia flower to Jose, who takes no notice of her at first.
After the break Don Jose remains behind. Carmen has cast her demonic spell on him. Micaela returns bringing him a letter and a kiss from his mother which she implants on his forehead. Jose wants to resist being led into temptation by Carmen and intends to marry Micaela in accordance with his mother‘s wishes.
An argument breaks out in the factory, the noise of which is heard outside. Carmen has injured a woman with her knife. As a result of the incident the girls come running out of the factory, arguing and fighting. They are separated by the soldiers. When Carmen makes fun of the incident and the interrogation, Zuniga orders Don Jose to escort her to prison. Carmen persuades Don Jose to let her escape on the way. As a reward she promises to spend the night with him in Lilla Pastia‘s tavern. Don Jose is torn between desire and his sense of duty. Finally he releases Carmen‘s bonds so that she can escape.
Carmen and her friends Mercedes and Frasquita are sitting with Zuniga and his fellow officers in the tavern watching the dancing and singing. The tavernkeeper Lillas Pastia urges the soldiers to leave. Carmen learns from Zuniga that as punishment Jose has been demoted and placed under arrest, but that he has since been released.
The renowned bullfighter Escamillo enters the tavern and is immediately attracted to Carmen. He pays court to her with gallantry but she rejects his advances. Finally Escamillo and Zuniga and his men depart.
The smugglers Dancairo and Remendado try to convince the three gypsy women to help them with their next operation. Carmen refuses: she loves Don Jose. His voice is heard outside and the smugglers conceal themselves.
Carmen welcomes her eagerly awaited beloved. She dances and sings for him. Suddenly the bugle for roll call is heard and Jose wants to return to the baracks. Carmen makes fun of his sense of duty. Jose assures Carmen once again of his deepest love for her. He rejects, however, her offer to join with her and lead the life of a smuggler. As he is about to leave, Zuniga enters. There is a violent quarrel during which Carmen throws herself between the men. The smugglers and some gypsies overpower the lieutenant and tie him up. Now Don Jose is trapped; he has no choice but to flee to the mountains with the smugglers.
Act Three, First Scene
A gorge in the mountains.The smugglers want to bring their booty into the city unnoticed.
Meanwhile Carmen has lost interest in Jose. His attempts to win her back prove fruitless.
Carmen, Mercedes and Frasquita are telling each other‘s fortune. While the cards foretell good fortune for her friends, for Carmen they signify death.
Dancairo and Remendado return from their reconnaissance mission. The women are to distract the customs officers while the men smuggle the wares over the border. This sparks off Jose‘s jealousy again. While the others leave for the city, he is to guard the remaining merchandise.
Micaela appears in the gorge. She is looking for Don Jose. The eerie place makes her feel frightened. When Escamillo appears she hides. Jose and Escamillo meet and engage in a violent struggle. Carmen Prevents Jose from killing the torero. In return Escamillo invites her and all her companions to the next bullfight in the arena in Sevilla. The humiliated Jose warns Carmen to no avail. As the smugglers are about to depart for Sevilla, they discover Micaela in her hiding place. Jose refuses to return with her to his mother. When Micaela reveals to him that his mother is dying, he reconsiders. He grimly prophesies to Carmen that they will meet again.
Act Three, Second Scene
A square in Seville outside the arena, shortly before the bullfight. Escamillo enters with his large entourage and Carmen at his side. She does not heed Frasquita‘s warning that the jealous Jose is hiding in the crowd. All enter the arena, Carmen remains behind with Jose.
Jose still loves Carmen. She refuses, however, to go back to him and start a new life together. She wants to keep her freedom and not be bound to obey anybody. To underline this, Carmen throws the ring he once gave her at his feet. Jose stabs Carmen as Escamillo‘s victory is being celebrated in the arena. He collapses over her body in despair.
Translation: Christopher Balme
© Bayerische Staatsoper