Since high school, I’ve dreamed of going to see an opera determined not to fall asleep (which I succeeded in), but it always seemed far-fetched considering I rarely had hundreds of dollars to spare for a ticket. Clearly, when we got the opportunity to see a classic like Carmen for free, I was ecstatic. Before college I took a music class for six years, which I loved because music is my ultimate obsession. Needless to say, the music in Carmen infatuated me. Most alluring to me was Carmen’s leitmotif (the recurring melody associated with a character) that I sang for days after the performance. I tried a little experiment during the performance where I didn’t use subtitles for the first half and did use them for the second half. I found that I enjoyed it more solely by watching and listening rather than focusing on translations. It isn’t necessary to understand the words especially when most of them are repeated. Feeling the emotion and tone in the music is enough to comprehend the storyline and it allows you to experience the opera instead of looking at a screen. Speaking of the storyline, I loved the plot based on the strong, defiant and beautiful Carmen, but I was dissatisfied with her murder. I felt it was somehow unimpressive because the opera is known to be overly dramatic, so I thought her death would be more public and theatrical. After Professor Eversley showed us Beyonce’s Hip Hopera, I was interested in discovering more Carmen inspired art and I realized a song I loved for years was named after her by Lana Del Rey that tells the story of a promiscuous, independent woman. All in all, my first opera experience left me wanting more which is why I am trying to convince my uncle to buy us tickets for Mozart’s The Magic Flute even though he wants to see The Marriage of Figaro.


Read Article →
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.

Read Article →
Carmen: An Opéra Comique

Opera is testimony to history itself. It has survived war and disease and the volatile push and pull of political disaster. In a world where the role of fine arts is a shrinking one, opera has retained its dignity to an impressive degree- statues crumble, paintings are stolen, but music is something that will prevail through the ages.

With that in mind, I can say this: seeing Carmen by Georges Bizet on Thursday night was an honor.

To me, one of things that made the show so captivating was the fact that it was in French. What I expected to be a drawback actually enhanced my night. Professor Eversley was right when she said that an English translation of the songs isn’t necessary for a full experience at the opera. The performers sang each song with a remarkably broad range of genuine emotion, and there were several times throughout the entire show where I felt the songs more than I actually understood them.

Carmen’s arias, for instance, are a perfect example. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the literal meaning of her words without the small caption box on the seat in front of mine, I could still comprehend the shift of moods inherent to the scene- like below in the final act, when she’s singing about her need for freedom


When looking at different types of performances, I think that this is important. The acting that you see on television isn’t the same as the acting you see in movies, and that kind of acting certainly isn’t the same as what you would see in a play or musical. In television and film, actors can take several shots of the same scene, altering camera angles and lighting to emphasize details. On stage, however, there’s no such thing as a retake. In that way, it is important to recognize- and applaud- the talent of the performers we saw on Thursday. Ignoring the fact that there were no microphones and every musical number relied on a very delicate combination of vocal projection and the architecture of the theatre, I was stunned at how forcefully performers conveyed both their emotions and their intent.

Whatever I was expecting from the opera, it certainly wasn’t a breathtaking performance like this. It was my first time at the Met, and, hopefully, not the last.

Read Article →
Bizet's "Carmen" at The Metropolitan Opera

You are beautiful.


Read Article →