Carmen synopsis

ACT ONE
A square in Seville, adjacent to a cigarette factory. While some soldiers are lounging about, Micaela arrives from the country looking for Don Jose for whom she has a message from his mother. She learns that his company are soon due on duty. A crowd of street urchins herald the arrival of the change of guard, which is lead by the Lieutenant Zuniga and Corporal Don Jose. Zuniga asks Jose about the factory girls but he says he takes no notice of them. The cigarette girls take a break and flirt with the young men who have come to meet them. The exotic gypsy, Carmen, attracts the most attention. In the habanera, she sings of her fickle nature and tosses a flower to the young Corporal, who secretly puts it in his tunic. Micaela approaches Jose with a letter from his mother, which suggests that he should marry her. He is prepared to do this but just as he decides to throw Carmen’s flower away, an uproar breaks out and the girls spill out of the factory. Carmen has been involved in a fight and drawn a knife on one of the others. She is captured but refuses to answer any of the questions put to her, so Lieutenant Zuniga arrests her and orders Don Jose to take her to prison. Carmen, using all her seductive powers, persuades Jose to let her escape, but this causes him to be arrested in her stead.

ACT TWO
The Tavern of Lillas Pastia. Two months have passed. Gypsies and Soldiers are being entertained by Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercedes. Lieutenant Zuniga says that Don Jose has been released from the punishment that he was given for letting her escape. Just then loud acclamation is heard, heralding the arrival of Escamillo, a famous bullfighter. He is immediately attracted to Carmen, but she shows no interest in him. Everyone moves on leaving Carmen, Frasquita, Mercedes and two gypsy smugglers, Dancairo and Remendado who try to enlist the girl for a job. Carmen says she must wait to meet the young soldier who helped her escape. Don Jose arrives and Carmen dances for him and they appear to fall in love. The sound of a bugle calls Jose back to barracks. Carmen tries to persuade him to stay but he insists that he must return. Just then Zuniga returns expecting to find Carmen on her own. A fight ensues and the gypsies rush in to overpower the Lieutenant and Jose realises he has no choice but to join the smugglers.

ACT THREE
Gypsy Camp, in the mountains. Several months later. The smugglers are resting before delivering their contraband. It becomes clear that Don Jose is still besotted by Carmen, while she has grown tired of him. Frasquita and Mercedes are telling fortunes with cards but each time Carmen deals them, they predict death for her. Leaving Jose to guard the camp, the rest of the gypsies set off with their goods. Micaela enters having tracked Don Jose down and comes to try to persuade him to return home. Before she can speak to him she hears others approaching and hides. Escamillo arrives and tells Jose he is looking for Carmen having heard that she has tired of her previous lover. Jose reveals that he is that lover and fights Escamillo but the returning gypsies separate them. Escamillo issues an invitation for everyone to attend a bullfight in which he will take part. The gypsies discover Micaela who tells Don Jose that his mother is dying and begs him to go to her. Jose agrees but re-affirms his love for Carmen.

ACT FOUR
Outside the Bull Ring in Seville. The crowds hail the procession of the toreros, last is Escamillo with Carmen by his side. All enter the arena except Carmen, Frasquita and Mercedes, who warn Carmen that they have seen Don Jose in the crowd. Carmen says she is not afraid and they leave her alone. Don Jose begs her to return to him but she declares their love is over and that she is with Escamillo. From the arena the cheers ring out as Jose draws his knife and kills her.

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