I consider it a masterpiece in the fullest sense of the word: one of those rare compositions which seems to reflect most strongly in itself the musical tendencies of a whole generation.”



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Historical Background
France was the operatic capitol of Europe during the first half of the 19th century.

During this period, a type of musical drama was established that came to be known as “grand opera.” This term helped to differentiate it from the less serious or more melodramatic opéra comique which had spoken dialogue in between the musical numbers. In addition to sung dialogue, called recitative, grand opera had other essential features. These included subject matter of a serious and heroic nature, and a grandiose treatment of the subject with regard to singing, instrumental music and staging. Over time, opéra comique broadened its scope to include more serious subjects, but the tradition of spoken dialogue remained. As the century progressed, grand opera became somewhat more predictable and less original and the opéra comique became the venue for the introduction of new and more innovative works. This was particularly true after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 which shocked the French body politic and created ripple effects that reached into the world of opera.


Literary trends in France also had an impact on the arts and eventually, opera librettos. In

a reaction to the prevailing spirit of Romanticism there was a desire to challenge idealism and

replace it with realism. Eventually, literary realism evolved into a movement called naturalism.

These developments resulted in vérisme opera in France and eventually, verismo opera in Italy.

There was a desire by writers, artists and opera composers to portray everyday life, the common

man in his personal struggles, and even those who were considered immoral or degenerate.


The opera Carmen is based on a literary work, the novella “Carmen” by


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