It is commonplace to imagine Georges Bizet's Carmen to be part of a long line of seductresses: Salome, Manon, Delilah and most notoriously Lulu. Her goal, apparently is, escape from jail and win her freedom - the price? The seduction of Don Jose. What follows is the inevitable. It is a convenient explanation, especially for Don Jose and for all men who think themselves victims of the wily and duplicitous female who had undermined, betrayed and lied. In short it is subterfuge that drives them and for all of the women above, excepting Carmen, I accept that this is true. Salome is an unsupervised teenager bent on pathological narcissicism (Herod and the court have not a clue where her mania is leading ...). Manon is naive, but also in search of a protector; Lulu pretends to be a naive as she realizes men desire this and she plays the role to win her desires; Dalilah works for Samson's enemies and is the classic "spy in the house of love". Carmen does none of this and none of these women offer over and over to not only release their victim, but Carmen encourages his realization that he has made a mistake! She promises love and delivers; but she never offered "terms" or a limit to her feelings; that is his presumption and part of his unspoken dream.
The text of the opera is both brilliant and clear:
O ma Carmen, laisse- moi te sauver, toi que j'adore,
Oh my Carmen , let me save you,
Oh, Carmen I adore you...
Her response (already given to save his pleading and her bother) is devastating and utterly without equivocation or deceit :
Tu demandes l'impossible !
Carmen jamais n'a menti !
Entre nous, tout a fini !
Carmen has never told you a lie !
Tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and hear Don Jose's emotional and one way ride to hell, courtesy of a tempestous woman and Bizet's extraordinary music and drama that gives shape to this unique and colorful creation. That's Bizet's Carmen , this Saturday at noon, on KPAC and KTXI .
By Ron Moore