Conventional and self-contained numbers


Micaela’s numbers are conventional, self-contained (possibly even Da Capo, the ultimate closed form), diatonic, and sentimental. Micaela’s opposite, the “bad” girl Carmen, often sings chromatic lines and is accompanied by chromatic harmony. This is especially true when she is being devious, as in Carmen’s seguidilla aria which is tonally unstable (i.e., it starts in the “wrong” key of F-sharp then modulates to other keys and only later reaches the key of b minor that matches the key signature. She also is involved in long scenes (especially with Don José) that are open in form and arioso like. Find another place in the opera where this use of arioso and open form happens and identify it (i.e., act, scene or give a starting/ending time on the video)

In a few sentences explain how are the characters Don José and Carmen different in the opera from the ways they are presented in the novella. Often differences seem to have been motivated by the opera comique audience’s expectations. Thus, Don José in the opera is more of a victim and less of a bad person than in the novel. Show how the novella’s action is modified to accomplish this. For example, in the opera Don José comes straight from jail to his assignation with Carmen at Pastia’s tavern, where in a matter of minutes he must decide whether to give up his military life and follow Carmen and her band of smugglers or continue with the military life he loves. After deciding to do the “right” thing (i.e., leave Carmen and return to his military unit) something happens that forces him to give up his career. What is it? How is the book different? In other words, how does the book make him seem more culpable and less like a victim of circumstances? Does the opera show him to be less inclined to follow the smugglers than the book does? Does Don José kill anyone in the opera? How about the book? What are the circumstances? Does Don José in the opera enjoy smuggling? What about in the book? Be able to say where in the opera or the book this is indicated.
The Prelude (Overture) to Carmen has as its second main theme (after the famous toreador song) a theme in d minor that features the augmented second (i.e., c-sharp to b-flat; listen to it at 4:44 on the subtitled video). Augmented seconds in western music are often used to symbolize the “other” (where “other” can mean jews, orientals, muslims, or anybody else that is non-European and exotic). The augmented-second tune returns at several points in the drama, acquiring meaning every time it returns. Describe a place in which it returns (tell me what is happening at that point and what act it’s in)? Does this theme ever change from its initial form? Where (give a time on the video)? What do you think the tune symbolizes?

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