Bizet's opera Carmen was first produced at the Opera-Comique in Paris in 1875. The French genre of opera-comique had arisen in the eighteenth century as a Gallic counterpart of the Italian opera buffa, injecting an air of contemporary realism into operatic form. The success of operetta in the nineteenth century offered a challenge to the form, which retained the characteristic of the German Singspiel, spoken dialogue taking the place of the recitative of opera seria or French grand opera, but increasingly lacked power or conviction. Carmen, in its original version with spoken dialogue, derived largely from Prosper Mérimée's novel on which the opera was based. created something of a scandal, and opened the way to a new form of opera. While nineteenth century French audiences at the Opera-Comique might find in Micaela a recognisable character, Carmen, a vicious outcast from decent society, was not the ideal heroine for popular family entertainment.
Georges Bizet was born in Paris in 1838, the son of a singing teacher. He entered the Conservatoire at the age of ten and even in childhood had some lessons, at least, from Charles Gounod, and later became a pupil of Fromental Halevy, a prolific composer of opera, whose daughter, subject like her mother to intermittent bouts of mental instability, he married in 1869. Ludovic Halevy, a cousin, collaborated on the libretto for Carmen. As a student Bizet won the expected successes, culminating in 1857 in the first prize in the Prix de Rome, followed by three years at the Villa Medici, in accordance with the terms of the award, modified to allow him to remain in Rome for the final year, rather than move to Germany. In Paris, where he returned in September 1860 on receiving news of his mother's illness, he earned a living by hack-work for the theatre and for publishers, interspersed with more ambitious undertakings, including Les pecheurs des perles, staged with moderate success at the Opera-Comique in 1863, followed, in 1867, by Lajolie fille de Perth at the Theatre-Lyrique. In 1872 the opera Djamileh, mounted at the Opera-Comique, was a failure, as was the original score for the melodrama L'Arlesienne, a collaboration with Alphonse Daudet.
The projected opera on the subject of Carmen met many difficulties. There were natural objections to the subject on the part of the theatre management, followed by further objections from singers to whom the title-r6le was offered. Bizet himself was constantly involved with the demands of his wife and her mother, while handling practical difficulties during rehearsals, once the work was complete, with a chorus that found difficulty in singing and acting simultaneously and an orchestra that was used to lighter fare. The librettists Ludovic Halevy and Henri Meilhac were generally too busy to give much attention to a work they thought doomed, but did their best to modify the production to avoid offending the public. Galli-Marié, the first Carmen, and Paul Lherié, who sang the part of Don José, supported Bizet's intentions.
The first performance of Carmen, on 3rd March 1875, was received relatively coldly. The critics were equally shocked, condemning the licentiousness of the characters and the alleged lack of melody in a score that they considered Wagnerian in its orchestral excesses. Gounod, who had congratulated the composer on his work, confided to friends in the theatre that the only decent melodies were one filched from him, for Micaela in the third act, and the rest from Spain. There were those, however, who had some notion of what Bizet was attempting, praising this injection of realism.
There is no doubt that Carmen was at first a failure. It had a run of some 45 performances, and was able, at least as a succes de scandale, to attract the curious. The composer died on 3rd June. For years he had suffered a recurrence of a throat infection and now, weakened, it seems, by depression at the apparent failure of his new opera, he lacked the will to survive. The actual cause of Bizet's death was heart failure, coming after days of high fever, the immediate result of spending too much time in the water during a swim in the Seine. During a performance of Carmen on the day of his death, Galli-Marie had been seized by a feeling of strong foreboding, as she sang the words of the card scene - "moi d'abord, ensuite lui, pour tous les deux la mort" - and was overcome, as she left the stage. A few hours later Bizet, who had left Paris for the country air of Bougival in May, was dead.
Carmen was not repeated at the Opera-Comique until 1883, when it was performed in an emasculated version that provoked as much hostility as the earlier version. By this time the opera had won an international reputation, particularly after its production in Vienna in October 1875, with recitatives written by Bizet's friend Ernest Guiraud, and audiences in Paris had learned what to expect. In the autumn of 1883 the Paris production was revised and Galli-Marie re-engaged to sing the r61e she had memorably created and triumphantly repeated abroad. The opera was at last accepted by the French public as a masterpiece of French operatic repertoire.
Because this tape is sealed new and we cannot inspect for play-ability, we offer no warranty or guarantees on how well this tape will perform once it is opened and removed from the cellophane package. Because this sealed new 8-track tape is very old, the foam pad and glue on the foil splice most often has a tendency to deteriorate over many years of time. Always inspect and replace if necessary those items before playing any sealed new 8-track tape, or damage to the tape and player may occur.
If you would like this new sealed tape gently opened and inspected for play-ability with a new pad and foil splice added, please go to "New 8-track tape repair" in the New 8-track tape category and we will gladly perform the work for you. Please be sure to select the number of repairs needed for the amount of sealed tapes you are purchasing.