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Carmen was first performed in 1875, shocking the audiences initially with its immorality!

The opera is set in the 1830s in Seville, Spain beginning in a large square with a young group of soldiers who are tired and awaiting for their release from duty with a fresh battalion of the guard. A young women arrives enquiring after a soldier called Josè but is told that he will arrive shortly as he is on duty next, they invite her to wait with them but she declines saying she will return later! Josè and the other soldiers arrive and the urchins imitate their formal handover causing laughter.

A factory bell rings and young females escape into the sunshine for their break, enjoying banter with the guards when Carmen arrives singing a provocative melody and the soldiers love it, begging her to choose one to be her lover she laughs and throws a flower at Josè who is not interested as he already has a lover.

The women return to their work at the factory as Micaëlla returns, looking for Josè – she has a letter for him from his mother who wants him to return home and marry Micaëlla. She is shyly embarrassed by this and retreats, but Josè is quite keen on this idea. Suddenly there is a commotion and the girls rush back out of the factory screaming at the Officer of the guard, Zuniga, that Carmen has a knife and is attacking another woman. He orders Josè to restrain her whilst he writes out an arrest warrant. Carmen seduces Josè with an erotic song and he agrees to free her hands, she pushes away and flees laughing at him. Leaving Josè to be arrested by Zuniga for dereliction of duty.

Two months later Carmen is entertaining soldiers in the inn and she is being told by Zuniga that Josè has finished serving his detention when suddenly they hear a commotion in the square as a man enters the inn announcing that he is the best Toreador in Spain as he heads straight for Carmen. She pushes him away disinterested and all leave the inn except Carmen, staying with her friends.

Two smugglers arrive and try to enlist their help in moving some contraband and Carmen’s friends leave with them. Josè arrives and Carmen gets up and does an erotic dance for him but the barracks bugle is heard and he must return to duty.

She is put out and derides him for not loving her so he pulls out the flower that she threw to him and asks why would he keep it if he didn’t love her. So Carmen tells him to prove himself and leave the inn with her but he refuses saying that he should be on duty and leaves only to confront Zuniga who is looking for Carmen. The two fight, and Zuniga is restrained by the smugglers who have returned, Josè and Carmen escape joining the smugglers.

At the smugglers hide out, Carmen is arguing with Josè – she has grown bored of him and tells him he should return to his mother. Her friends have a pack of fortune telling cards and she joins them only to learn that they are predicting her and José’s death, the girls leave to talk to the men who are guarding them and Josè is left alone on guard.

Micaëlla approaches the camp looking for Josè but hides in fear when she hears a gunshot. Josè has shot at but not hit the toreador who is looking for Carmen and the two men fight over her but the smugglers restrain them and tell Escamillo to leave. He cheerfully invites everyone to his next bullfight and, as he leaves, they discover Micaëlla and she tells Josè that his mother is dying and he must go with her straight away. Despite his reluctance to leave Carmen he goes, swearing that he will return.

Carmen and her friends are at the bullfight, she arriving on Escamillo’s arm, when her friends warn her that Josè has arrived. He approaches her and begs her to come back to him, as the crowd cheers the bullfighter in the background she throws Josè’s ring on the floor and walks away to enter the arena where Escamillo has won again but Josè stabs and kills her and then sobs over her.

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