Great Moments In Opera, Bizet’s Habanera From Carmen

Published: 07th April 2010
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An article about the aria Habanera from Bizet's opera Carmen.

The role of the gypsy girl Carmen from Bizet's opera by the same name is arguably the most famous ever written for a mezzo-soprano. The story of Carmen being a tragic love story between the sexually alluring Carmen and a simple corporal by the name of "Don Jose".

As for the story of Carmen, it starts near a tobacco factory in Seville where a young lady by the name of Michaela is looking for Don Jose with a message from his mother that she wants him to marry Michaela. Don Jose for his part more to render joy to his mother agrees with her decision.

It however is at that point that the girls from the tobacco factory go out on their break, to enjoy the day as well as flirt with the soldiers from the nearby army barracks where Don Jose happens to be stationed. It is a fine lovely day and all is as usual with the soldiers trying to make on impression on the women who work at the tobacco factory yet there is one whose absence many have not overlooked. Carmen being the one who many of the soldiers were waiting to see as they shout "ou est la Carmencita?" (where is Carmen) in the hope that she might not disappoint by making her presence felt among them.

It is however as all are waiting and crying out for Carmen, that she makes a stunning appearance in all her raw gypsy sexuality that so many of the men at the nearby fort desire. Carmen being one who is young with a body which though not thin exhibits strong traits of sex appeal in its plumpness that includes large breasts along with legs and hips that make her an object of stare specially when she walks about all the soldiers; whom she knows all too well are at her disposal should she choose to but show interest in one of them. Carmen however makes it clear that she is not interested as she before beginning her aria Habanera answers the question "when will you love us?" with the words "I don't know when but not today that is for sure.

It is then with the eyes of all on her as she sways her body to the sound of the music which seems to go back and forth; almost as seductively as Carmen herself that she begins by announcing "le amour est infant de boheme que ma jamais jamais connu de loi". This meaning "love is a child of gypsies which has never known the rule of law". Carmen at that moment knowing she has the attention as well as sexual desires of all trained on her, continues her almost speech about love by adding "if you love me I do not love you but if I were to love you then be on your guard". Carmen however is also aware that Don Jose is not paying attention to her which makes her more willing to draw the lust from him she has from all the rest that be about. This factor being what makes Carmen all the more determined to release all of her female passion, as she sings this aria while expressing equally as much with her body and naturally coquette ways which not only make Don Jose fall madly in love but see her as a sorceress.

The aria "Habanera" is one of the sexiest ever composed, as it is one that not only because of its lyrics but melody flirts with its viewers, as if provoking them yet teasing them with what is not for them. This an aria that not only requires a singer to be able to sing as a mezzo-soprano but have the temperament of a woman like Carmen; who in her aggression is capable of putting fear even in to the most intrepid of seducers. She being one who is all too carefree to the point of ridiculing all convention as she lives by her own rules and nobody else's.

As for my personal opinion (though many have sung "Habanera") it is Angela Gheorghiu whose performance truly captures the spirit of Carmen both with her voice as well as the essence of her womanhood which lends itself perfectly toward playing this woman capable of bringing chills to almost any male she aim her femininity at. This perhaps being Gheorghiu's capricious Latin nature along with eyes that seem to be playing with her audience as well as those who should be opposite her on stage. Gheorghiu however despite her wonderful interpretation of "Habanera" has never performed all of the opera Carmen. As she has limited herself to only this aria yet I am most hopeful of one day seeing her take on the whole role in what is bound to be another great performance by my favorite all time diva.

As for the aria "Habanera" though I have heard it many times through out the years in several films as well as commercials; I will never forget the first time my ears picked up on it which was on "The Odd Couple". This occasion in an episode in which a shy coworker of Oscar's is asked by Felix to play the part of Carmen in a small production.

My name is Gianni Truvianni, I am an author who writes with the simple aim of sharing his ideas, thoughts and so much more of what I am with those who are interested in perhaps reading something new. I also am the author of the book entitled "New York's Opera Society".

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