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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Royal Tobacco Factory

The Royal Tobacco Factory in Seville, Spain, is a stone building constructed in the 18th century. Since the 1950s it has been the seat of the rectorate of the University of Seville. Prior to that, it was, a tobacco factory: the most prominent such institution in Europe. It is one of the most notable and splendid examples of industrial architecture from the era of Spain's Antiguo Régimen. Carmen is a cigarrera at the Royal Tobacco Factory.

The Cigar-makers, painted

in 1915, shows the interior of

the Royal Tobacco Factory.
What was going on in Spain at the time of the Opera?

Spain, in 1820, was past its years of imperial glory. The occupation by Napoleon and the determined resistance by Spaniards fighting the first guerrilla was (literally “little war” in Spanish) followed by Wellington’s Peninsular War which caused terrible destruction. When the French retreated across the Pyrenees to France in 1814, they left behind an impoverished and deeply divided country, a weak monarchy and a demoralized army, into which Don José was conscripted.

What was going on in France when Carmen premiered?

France, in 1875 was still suffering from its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), which resulted in the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and their incorporation into the newly proclaimed German Empire. The war also ended the reign of Emperor Napoleon III, who was captured by the Prussians at the battle of Sedan. Subsequently, the French Assembly declared the creation of the Third Republic. The next several years were marked by infighting between monarchists and republicans. The only thing they seemed to agree on was the need to avenge the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. This was achieved only through the horror of the First World War.

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