All about ‘Carmen’

It was a pleasure to hear the opera on Public Radio Saturday, Bizet’s “Carmen,” one that I was thoroughly familiar with. Previously I had heard Bresini’s “Siege of Corinth” and Puccini’s “Manon Lescaurt,” both excellent, but I had to learn about the plots by reading my Met Opera Broadcast Guide.

I could follow all of the “Carmen” following my libretto, the French words sung in the opera written on the left pages, and the English translation on the right pages, side by side.

Incidentally, my copy of the Met Opera’s “Carmen” libretto, which I’ve had for many years, cost only 35 cents. I daresay they are more expensive today.

The opera’s heroine is the gypsy Carmen, who worked in a tobacco factory in Seville, Spain, and she belonged to a band of smugglers. Don Jose, a soldier, whose mother had chosen Micaela, a peasant girl from his village to be his wife, had become bewitched by Carmen.

In a fight outside the factory, Carmen was arrested, and Don Jose was entrusted with taking her to prison. She seduced him, and he allowed her to escape. He himself was then arrested. After being released from prison, he deserted the army and joined Carmen and her band of smugglers. She later admitted that she was tired of him, and she took up with the handsome bullfighter Escamille.

Jose found out from Micaela that his mother was dying and he finally agreed to return home, telling Carmen that they would meet again. But outside the bullring in Seville, Carmen rejected his pleas to start a new life with him. She rejected him, and he then stabbed her to death, and he collapsed in remorse over her body.

Another tragic operatic ending.

I read in my 1930 edition of Ernest Newman’s “Stories of the Great Operas” that Georges Bizet was born in Paris Oct. 25, 1838. His father was a teacher of singing. His mother was the sister of a pianist who married the famous singing teacher Francois Alexandre Delsarte.

Bizet entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 9, and quickly became recognized as one of the most promising students there. He carried off many prizes and became a pianist of the first order. In Italy, he studied Rossini, Cimarosa and Mozart. He did much composing and in 1872 his music for the concert room became very popular.

“Carmen” was produced in 1875. At first, critics were not in favor of it. But later it became popular all over the world, by 1883. Paris alone had 1,000 performances during the next 20 years.

Three months after the first production, Bizet died. His “Carmen” is certainly considered a masterpiece today, all these long years after it was written.

Lucky man

In the Portland paper’s Feb. 22 article about the Naples man who was able to reach his cell phone, although he was buried upside down under a giant mound of snow, we marveled that he survived.

The 57-year-old man was clearing ice off the edge of a metal roof when the roof’s entire load of snow slid down all at once, flipping him backward off his ladder and burying him upside down, legs and rump only sticking out.

He immediately ate snow, trying to clear space to breathe. He got some of the snow from his face, but remained immobilized. An hour and a half later he was finally able to see, and thought of his cell phone in his pocket. He began digging with his fingers and finally the phone began to slide out. He flipped it open with his teeth and called 911.

The Cumberland County Sheriff ‘s Office arrived and shoveled him out. He was taken to a Bridgton hospital, where he was warmed up, and only bruised from the ordeal.

He said that he kept thinking that he was a snowmobiler and president of the snowmobile club, “I can’t die this way,” he said.

Snow will slide rapidly when released, especially on a metal roof, and this was an example of what could happen. Ask a friend along to help you, or notify someone, before taking on such a dangerous situation.

What a story, and what a lucky man he was.

Sweet treat

Today’s recipe is from “The Sephardic Cooks,” published in 1992 by the Sisterhood of Congregation of VeSheba.


3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 cup flour, sifted

3 tablespoons baking powder

2 cups pitted dates

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Cut up the dates into the flour, coating to keep the pieces separated. Add nuts. In another bowl beat well with electric mixer the eggs and sugar. Fold dry mixture into the batter gradually. The mixture will be very thick and stiff. Add the vanilla.

Spread evenly into greased baking pan (7-1/2 by 11-1/2) inches). Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Do not overbake. When cake has cooled, cut into small squares or bars and roll in powdered sugar before serving.


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