Composer, arranger and Pianist, Bizet might have become the most renowned opera composer in France had he not died aged 36, just one month after the premiere of Carmen. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1848 and excelled under the tutelage of Zimmerman, Halévy and Gounod, as well as winning major prizes, including the Prix de Rome in 1857. After travels in Italy, he settled back in Paris and, while struggling to secure commissions for his operas, worked as a rehearsal pianist and an arranger of works for piano. His first staged work, Les pêcheurs de perles, was premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique in 1863 and met with a hostile press, but it impressed Berlioz and the director of the theatre, Léon Carvalho, would become a firm supporter. More successful were La jolie fille de Perth (1866), his suite from the incidental music to L’Arlésienne (1872), and his Jeux d’enfants for piano duet.
In Carmen, the scandalous story and Bizet’s depiction of the tragic heroine both outraged and intrigued, and the opera ran for 47 performances in its first year and soon spread internationally. The music was a fulfilment of his genius for characterisation that had been seen in glimpses in his earliest works, and the abundance of memorable tunes and fine orchestration continues to inspire generations of singers and musicians.
Based upon the 1875 published version of the opera—with revisions and restorations by Jean-Claude Hartemann, and further editorial overview by David Lloyd-Jones— the edition includes both the original spoken text as well as recitatives by Ernest Guiraud, and the following sections:
•Scène et pantomime N° 2 (Attention! Chut! Taisons-nous!)
•Original Mélodrame after Marche et Choeur des gamins N° 3 (Il y a une jolie fille)
•Original version of Carmen’s entrance aria N° 5 (L’Amour est enfant de Bohême)
•Original version of N° 6 Scène (Carmen! sur tes pas nous nous pressons tous!)
•Chanson et mélodrame N° 9 (Tra, la, la, la … Ce ne sont pas des chansons que je te demande)
•Original version of N° 17 Duo, including Il souffre de partir
•Original version of N° 23 Duo, including Je la connais, ta garde navarraise