The popularity of Carmen endures across generations and continents, with one of the most frequently performed and instantly recognizable operatic scores of all time and a libretto derived from Prosper Mérimée's novella of the same name, written 30 years prior to the opera's 1875 debut. In Georges Bizet's Carmen—the latest volume in the Oxford Keynotes series—author Nelly Furman explores the evolution of Carmen's story and its meaning, illuminating how the titular heroine has maintained her status as a universally recognizable cultural icon.
Grounded in Ludovic Halévy's and Henri Meilhac's libretto—and drawing on a wealth of mostly French critical theory—this book traces the textual, operatic, and cinematic tellings and retellings of the story, from its success as a novella in the industrial age through to its iconic position in our own cinematic era. As Furman delicately navigates the fraught terrain of racial and gendered discourse and ideology that Bizet's setting of Mérimée's work traverses, she uncovers the elements of the story that give it cultural salience and resonance, both in its own right and in support of Bizet's acclaimed musical score. In doing so, Furman reveals how past and present renderings of the Carmen tale mirror the changing concerns and shifting values of individual authors and their societies—and how each new rendering has helped to embed Carmen into the global conscience.