Just wanted to share this about Carmen from the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1875 that the opera Carmen appeared on stage for the first time at the Opéra-Comique in France. In 1872, Georges Bizet wrote to a friend, "I am asked to write three acts for the Opéra-Comique […] It will be bright, but of a brightness that allows style."

When it premiered, the audience was shocked by the characters of Carmen, a gypsy girl, and her lover, Don José. It’s set in an exotic Spain among gypsies and bullfighters. One element that surprised audiences was that the heroine smokes on stage, something considered less than proper then. Carmen’s debut was not a failure, although some history books have portrayed it that way. The opera ran for 37 performances even though it came out late in the season, and it came back the next season, too.

Nietzsche heard Carmen twenty different times, and thought of it as a musical masterpiece. Tchaikovsky first heard Carmen in 1880. Bizet died of a heart attack just three months after the opera’s debut. He was worn out from rehearsals. Carmen is still the most popular French opera of the 19th century.


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