The Music of Carmen


Going to the opera for the first time last week was quite a strange experience, whether it be for the fact that we had to watch a performance from such as elevated height (which I actually quite liked) or the fact that I actually ended up enjoying an event that I was not looking forward to. The largest fear i had towards going to the opera was obviously falling asleep, yet there was more than enough interesting things that occurred that caught my attention. Whether it be the extravagent sets or the clothing, I was definitely interested. However, the thing that caught my attention during the whole performance the most was the music of Carmen, especially the individual arias performed by the singers. Down below, I’m going to talk a little about some of my favorite musical moments from Carmen.


Habanera – Carmen

Definitely the most recognizable aria from the opera, the reasons behind the popularity of the habanera is quite clear. The whole of the habanera is followed by an immediately recognizable set of cello notes from which the whole aria is based around, whether it be the backing chorus behind Carmen or the phrasing of the words that Carmen sings. However, the highlight of the aria is quite clearly Carmen, whose repeated verses show off the seductive nature of her character and balance perfectly with the backing of the chorus, who repeat important phrases at louder volumes and different tones.


Toreador – Escamillo

While the backing to the Toreador song is also very recognizable, the backing rhythm is based more around violins during quite parts when simply Toreador is singing, while the percussion instruments join in when ever the chorus chimes in. The intention of this aria in relation to Escamillo’s character is to show him off as a majestic, brave character, and to show him of being of higher stature than anyone around him. All in all, while the aria does it’s job quite well and is easily recognizable, it definitely pales in comparison to the habanera.


Je Dis Que Rien – Micaela

The last aria of Carmen is quite unique in that unlike the previous two solos, this one by Michael neither has an easily recognizable rhythm nor the backing of a chorus, being a true solo. Furthermore, this aria only receives musical backing from a piano, rather than any string instruments, allowing for a larger focus on the singing of Micaela. It is quite clear, even without understanding the words, that Micaela is singing about her love of Jose. However, the aria suffers from the lack of a easily recognizable rhythm, as it prevents listeners from easily remembering the aria in the same why you would remember the habanera or the toreador song.