Georges Bizet’s Carmen – Unappreciated in the Composer’s Lifetime

Georges Bizet’s Carmen pic

Georges Bizet’s Carmen

As co-owner of MPC Containment International, Edward Reicin consults with a firm that offers a host of portable storage tank solutions. Also an Illinois-based attorney, Edward Reicin has a passion for classic opera and has appeared in lead roles in a number of Lyric Opera of Chicago productions. Among the opera company’s 2017 productions have been My Fair Lady, Eugene Onegin, and Georges Bizet’s masterwork Carmen.

First performed in March, 1875, Carmen was a groundbreaking work that puzzled and angered French audiences initially, in large part due to its earthy and sensuous style that seemed to encourage immorality.

The 36-year-old composer had achieved only intermittent success with projects such as The Fair Maid of Perth and The Pearl Fishers. With its plot centered on a Spanish soldiers’ ill-omened love for a fiery gypsy woman, Bizet himself selected Prosper Merimee’s novel Carmen as the ideal dramatic vehicle to adapt. Completing basic orchestrations by 1874, he fought with theater management to retain the earthiness and dramatic tension of the work and constantly reworked the score in ways that tightened the action. The sensuous mezzo-soprano aria Habanera was revised no less than a dozen times in consultation with Celestine Galli-Marie, the actor who originated the role of Carmen.

Unfortunately, the realistic themes of obsession, a forerunner of the verismo school of opera, evoked a cold critical reaction that left Bizet deflated and unnerved. He fell into a deep depression that likely harmed his health, and passed away only three months after Carmen’s premiere.