Inferring musical meaning

Inferring Musical Meaning

Carmen; 19th Century Opera

Scene 1 of Act1 of Carmen

Carmen was created in the most romantic era of music and was the first to accommodate multiple elements of music in one performance. In the first of four scenes, George Bezit utilizes a short orchestral introduction that depicts festive music but is not definitive to a particular form. It is best described as a ‘festive noise’. The music introduces Carmen as she emerges engaging in the song “L’amour est unoiseau rebelle”. The song features a gentle Hispanic dance with rocking rhythms that was borrowed in Spain and popularized in France at that time. The chorus is the exciting part also involving children that raise excitement in the famous Hispanic habanera (Bizet, 2014).

It is at the refrain of song that the violins build up tension while Carmen seduces a soldier Don Jose. It works perfectly as naturally excepted. The slap of a chord of two bars follows her act of tossing a flower at Don Jose. The rest of the consecutive songs are constantly associated with Carmen as the main character. The most vivid theme that emerges in Carmen is the battle of sexes as well as race and gender. The woman is portrayed as the sign of trouble from the opening scene and implicated as trouble. Carmen’s body is the center of attraction and a battlefield for the men who strive for it. The scene reveals the French civilization of the mid 19th century where superstition and violence are evident.

The first scene comprises seductive music as Carmen easily uses her feminine prowess to lure Don Jose, an officer of law from undertaking his duties and orders to arrest her. Don Jose is led astray despite the fact that he is engaged to another woman who is dedicated to her. The opera was the first to use multiple songs in a scene.


Bizet, G. (2014). Carmen, Act 1, Scene 1, YouTube. Retrieved from


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