One of the things we will be discussion in class Tuesday is just why the story of Carmen has attracted so many adapters.  There has been an academic book written on this very topic: Evlyn Gould’s The Fate of Carmen, which is available at NYPL.  This would likely be a good starting point if any of you are planning to write about this case study.


An interesting thing I noticed: Wikipedia’s “Carmen” article is specifically about the Bizet opera.  The article about the novella is called “Carmen (novella)”.  Could this be a case of an adaptation suspending the source text?


Some music and dance adaptations (beyond the Bizet):


• There was a 1949 ballet by Roland Petit, which uses music from the opera.  YouTube has the first 25 minutes or so of an Opera National de Paris performance, in three parts:


• There is also a 1967 ballet called Carmen Suite with choreography by Alberto Alonso, and an original score by Rodion Shchedrin that incorporates some elements of Bizet’s opera.  There are a bunch of performances of this on YouTube; here is one:


The Car Man is a dance production by Matthew Bourne.  It uses the music from Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, but has a totally different plot based on James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice—so I guess it’s up for dispute whether it or not it counts as an adaptation of Mérimée’s novella or not.  There is a film of a full performance on YouTube:


This time around, I found quite a few film adaptations that are available at least in part on YouTube (there are dozens and dozens more beyond what I’ve listed here):


• Charlie Chaplin starred in a 1915 silent film called Burlesque on Carmen which is an adaptation/parody of the opera.  There are two different versions of this film; the original was on two reels, and the film was later padded out to four reels.  Both versions are on YouTube:


Carmen a.k.a. Gypsy Blood is a 1918 silent film by Ernst Lubitsch.  It is based more on the novella than the opera.  It is on YouTube in full:


• There is a 1927 silent film adaptation of the novella and opera called The Loves of Carmen, starring Delores Del Rio.  It’s not easy to find a full copy, but here are a couple clips:


• In 1938, Imperio Argentina starred as Carmen in two different film adaptations of the opera—a Spanish-language film called Carmen, la de Triana, and a German-language film called Andalusische Nächte.  Neither of these can be readily found, but there are some clips from the Spanish film online:


• There is a 1948 English-language film adaptation of the novella called The Loves of Carmen (not to be confused with the 1927 silent film of the same title).  The whole thing is on YouTube:


Black Tights is a 1961 film that ties four dance choreographies by Roland Petit, including Carmen, into a continuous narrative.  Part of the Carmen section is on YouTube here:


Carmen, Baby is a 1967 erotic exploitation film based on the novella.  The DVD is available at NYU library.  Here is the trailer, which, apart from being like something out of Tarantino’s deep unconscious, includes a NYT quote that’s apropos to what we were talking about last week with respect to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead—the film, a reviewer writes, will appeal to “opera lovers, who want to see what they’ve been missing all these years, and voyeurs, who just want to see”:


La tragédie de Carmen is a 1983 French film adaptation of the opera by Peter Brook.  It is available in full on YouTube:


• In 1984 there was a film adaptation of the opera by Francesco Rosi.  It is easy to come by on DVD.  There is a YouTube playlist with some clips from it, although some of them have been deleted:


• There is a 2003 Spanish-language film adaptation of Mérimée’s novella (not the opera) by Vincente Aranda.  It is available on DVD at NYPL.  Here is a long trailer:


• There is a 2011 film called Carmen in 3D.  It is available on Blu-Ray, in case you have all the needed equipment.  Here is the Web site:


Finally, this article describes an exhibition that ran at the Musée Picasso a few years ago, based on the premise that the character of Carmen was a major influence on Picasso’s art:

6 thoughts on “Carmen

  1. Again, a wonderfully rich archive of potential materials. Since I was not successful in finding the Peter Brook Tragedie de Carmen, I’m particularly glad that you got it. I was very impressed by it when I saw it at LC years ago, and would like to see how it holds up. Any other choices anybody else wants to grab?

  2. Hi all,

    I’ve posted the Sarasate score in our Dropbox folder, as well as some excerpts from Susan McClary’s Cambridge Opera Handbook on Carmen. The first of these excerpts is her essay on race, class, and gender in the opera. The second bit is her rather infamous analysis of the flower duet in Act II.

    As I was combing through McClary’s index, I found a reference to “Carmen on Ice.” Katarina Witt won the 1988 Olympic gold with her long program choreographed to Carmen, and this inspired a full-length TV feature starring Katarina Witt as Carmen, Brian Boitano (1988 Men’s gold) as Don Jose, and Brian Orser (1988 Men’s silver) as Escamillo. Interestingly enough, the 1988 Men’s Olympics has gone down in figure skating history as the Battle of the Brians. I find it cool that they play romantic rivals here.

    Witt’s 1988 freeskate program:

    Excerpts – Carmen on Ice
    Aragonaise: (The spin here is a direct ref to her 1988 program)

    My favorite of the three is the seguidilla. Everything about Boitano’s choreography speaks of his inefficacy, including his snowplow stop as he approaches Carmen with the rope. Witt, on the other hand, may be tied up, but it’s clear that she has the power/agency in the situation.


  3. I have two kinda unrelated thought tangents, so work with me. First off, I’m wondering about references and names, and how far naming can be pushed or understood towards adaptation. Here is a song by Lana Del Rey called “Carmen”:

    Now, at first I would imagine that sharing a name and nothing else (the song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the novella or opera) isn’t enough to establish this song as an adaptation, but taking into account Del Rey’s other work and her high level of referencing and interest in literature/film (some other Del Rey songs having names like “Lolyta” or “Body Electric”), I would argue that at least the usage of this name is purposeful, meant to create a certain specific association. What can we say about names, phrases, or cues that automatically recall some important text – especially if we consider how often these smaller references seem to infiltrate and insinuate their way into contemporary works? Lana Del Rey is a bit of a mess as far as quotation goes (you might get this sense from the music video alone), as it seems she’s going for a retro pop 60’s aesthetic while still alluding to a wealth of music, film, and literature that spans from Whitman and Poe to current underground hip hop, but maybe there’s something post-modern-esque (ha) about this schizoid-level of allusion and blurring of culture as specific to historical epochs?
    Lana Del Rey’s earlier work seems ready made for embedding within a Tarantino film (which is, in itself, significant because of Tarantino’s specific-but-broad pool of referents) for it’s 60’s mindfulness and exploitative themes, and so I had to check out the “Carmen Baby” trailer. The line about the film being for “opera lovers, who want to see what they’ve been missing all these years, and voyeurs, who just want to see” might help along an understanding of the penchant for referential names and phrases and easter eggs – they’re placed in texts solely for the people who will recognize them.
    As a final question, I’m thinking about “Carmen Baby” and exploitation films and the more recent explosion of “porn parodies” and what function these works serve. Statistics on internet use will demonstrate a quite obviously large audience for any pornography, let alone porn that references popular characters or scenarios from film and literature, but if we view something like “Pirates XXX”, which was released around the time of the super-successful Pirates of the Caribbean and seems to match the PotC visual tone, as an adaptation, what does this say about associations and intended interpretive communities?

  4. Hmm. The subject of naming and names brings me back to our discussion of “Kafka-esque” and what we mean when we attach a persons name to a particular feeling or genre–does the generative act of naming in some way replace the act of adaptation, in that it becomes a stand-in for certain cultural cues or expectations that then do not necessarily have to be fulfilled by the work itself? I run into this problem with the concept of the Picasso-Carmen show, where several articles claim the Carmen figure as something that Picasso used as a stand-in for Spain and a certain type of Spanish-ness, without identifying outright that Carmen, as a character from Merimee and/or Bizet, is a gypsy, an ‘other,’ a no-nation rather than a figure of nation. Professor Greetham brought up briefly in class the problem with a production that does not give Carmen space to be set apart; certainly a Carmen that defies cultural norms is very different from one that lives by manipulating her a-culturality.

    The last section of the Merimee threw me for a loop (apparently it was published slightly later than the original novella) with its weird gypsy ethnography that seemed to place Carmen outside the spectrum even of prototypical Gypsy-ness–her beauty, her proficiency with language, her love of the non-Roma Don Jose, all seem not to quite fit with this characterization. Taking this etymology as a piece of the story (rather than as an extremely suspect ‘scholarly’ epilogue) would seem to support a vision of Carmen as a rebellious individual, rather than merely an alien other. And yet there is something specific to Carmen; after all, Don Jose transgresses his own cultural boundaries several times, first fleeing the Basque area, which has its own history of alienation, for the ‘safety’ of regimental Spain, then being forced to live outside the law of Spain as a whole. Is it because Don Jose eventually accepts to Spanish law and turns himself in? He is the Catalan outsider who becomes absorbed by the Spanish system, whereas Carmen remains outside it even in death–is this the rebellion that adapters respond to?

  5. There’s also this South African film Opera named U-Carmen. I saw it on Netflix when I went to watch Carmen Jones. The South African version is very similar to Bizet’s. However, some of the characters have different names.

  6. Janie, I like your point about rebellion/transgression and otherness. The idea of the other within a work written by an outsider (either Merimee or Bizet, here) is getting increasingly interesting. In that vein, the following jumped out at me from the blog post on the Musée Picasso: “The retro-fit operation of placing Carmen behind these works of art doesn’t seem to fit when Carmen really represents an exotic, Spanish caricature that would mean more to an outsider (say, a French author) than to the painter [the Spaniard Picasso] himself.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s