5. “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” (“The flower that you tossed to me”) Having just been released from prison, Don José has traveled to the tavern to find Carmen, where he tells her of his obligation to return to service. This infuriates Carmen, who begs him to instead follow her to the mountains. Don José then sings about how he has saved the flower that she threw to him when they first met. The aria begins with the “fate” motif played by the English horn; the same theme that was heard at the end of the overture. The placement of this theme directly before Don José begins to sing implies that it was destiny that led him to meet Carmen, and is an example of using music as a storytelling device.
6. “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” (“I say that nothing can frighten me”) Micaëla is traveling to the mountains in search of Don José with the intention of convincing him to return home. She is afraid, but also very determined, and prays for the courage to continue. This is Micaëla’s only aria in the opera, and a prime example of the extent to which a character can be represented by the music they sing. The mood of this aria is completely different than that of any of the music Carmen sings, which is indicative of how dissimilar the two women are. Micaëla sings of the courage she will need when facing Carmen, who has bewitched her beloved Don José. The aria starts off quite timid, with the tempo and dynamics increasing as Micaëla gains strength and conviction in her quest, and ends with a gentle plea for God to protect her and give her courage.
7. “Les voici, voici le quadrille!” (“Here they are, here’s the quadrille!”) A large crowd of spectators has gathered and excitedly awaits the procession of the bull fighters and Escamillo. This section begins quietly as members of the crowd sing the words “Les voici!” (“Here they are!”); this text is sung numerous times throughout the chorus as the excitement builds. The entrance of the toreadorsis marked with a cymbal crash and a reprise of the lively music that was heard at the beginning of the overture. To achieve the effect of a large crowd of people who are all talking excitedly, Bizet divides up the chorus and has them take turns singing about different aspects of the procession. When Escamillo finally enters, the crowd once again sings the theme from the Toreador Song.
What did Bizet think of the competition – the other composers of his era?