In French with English Captions

Long Story Short

Good boy disintegrates when he meets the wrong girl.

Who's Who?

Don José was a nice boy in a small town before he killed a man and had to go join the army in the big city.

Carmen is a sultry gypsy temptress working at the local cigarette factory.

Escamillo is the irresistibly sexy bullfighter who lures Carmen away from José.

Micaëla is a sweet girl from José’s hometown.

Frasquita and Mercédès are Carmen’s flirtatious gypsy friends.

Remendado and Dancaïre are Carmen’s smuggler friends.

Zuniga is the captain of the guard and José’s commanding officer.

Moralès is a soldier who finds Micaela pretty.

Lillas Pastia runs a disreputable tavern on the outskirts of the city.

Where and When?

Seville and some nearby mountains, in the mid-nineteenth century.

What's Going On?

“Love is a gypsy child, a wild bird that knows no law. If you don’t love me, I love you; and if I love you, watch out!” Thus spake Carmen, a well-known dark beauty and philosopher of love, during her break at work one day. She announces her theory to an admiring crowd of factory girls, townsfolk, and young men gazing at her with ardent longing in their eyes. But the only one she notices is Don José, on guard nearby—the only person who seems uninterested in her. She takes a flower from her hair and tosses it at José before heading back in to work, and the magic of the flower goes straight to work.

José is visited that afternoon by Micaela, bringing a letter and a kiss from his mother back home. In the letter, his mother begs José to marry Micaela. But Carmen has other plans for José; she picks a fight in the cigarette factory and manages to get herself arrested. While José is tying her hands and taking her to jail, she seduces him, promising to date him if he lets her go. The bewitched soldier—already Carmen’s slave—helps her escape, and goes to jail himself.

A month later, José—having served his jail time—is to meet up with Carmen and her friends at Lillas Pastia’s tavern. But he’s a little bit too late; earlier that evening the crowd at Lillas Pastia’s was admiring Escamillo, a strutting peacock of a bullfighter who had eyes for Carmen alone. On her “date” with José, Carmen finds her affection for the handsome but weak-willed soldier has cooled considerably. She manipulates him into deserting the army and running away with her and her friends on a smuggling expedition. But she quickly grows bored with him, and he becomes increasingly possessive of her. He gets into a fight with Escamillo, who tracks Carmen to their mountain hideout, and only the timely arrival of Micaela stops them from killing each other. Micaela begs José to come home to his dying mother. He agrees to do so, but swears that Carmen will see him again.

She does so several weeks later, outside the bullring in Seville. Carmen bravely stays to confront José, although she knows he is bound to kill her. When she refuses to come back to him, he stabs her—at the very moment Escamillo slaughters the bull inside the ring. In the end, the police drag José away as he wails, “Arrest me, I killed her…oh, my beloved Carmen!”

Check out and Subscribe to the Seattle Opera YouTube Channel!

Watch Videos

Bring a group to the opera and enjoy big discounts and a free ticket too!

Learn More

Receive all the latest news from Seattle Opera plus special offers too.

Sign Up Today

Photo Credit

© Seattle Opera photo