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The composer had already written several operas that were performed in Paris, but not one of them had been completely successful. In all probability, it was company manager Camille du Locle who suggested Prosper Mérimée's story to Bizet and brought him together with librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

Anne-Sofie von Otter and William Joyner in the Santa Fe Opera production of Bizet's 'Carmen'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard
Anne-Sofie von Otter and William Joyner in the Santa Fe Opera production of Bizet's 'Carmen'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard

Setting the opera in Seville was not unusual. Some twenty opera plots take place there, but Meilhac and Halévy added some rather stereotypical characters to the story. The opera was to have appeared in the spring of 1874 but it was not ready in time, so it was premièred on 3 March of the following year. The company's first choice for the title role, Marie Roze, did not like her part and turned it down, so the title role was given to Celestine Galli-Marié and the composer is said to have reworked passages in the score with which she had problems.

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Copyright © 20 August 2006 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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