Flower Power: Don Jos and Dangerous Love in Bizet's Carmen


Dodgers as in a way, dramatic by his love. But if he's mad it's in his obsession, I think most of us have been through wild mood swings and kind of passionate rationality. From W are in the Metropolitan Opera. This is Ari code. I'm ran Giddens. You sort of go along thinking, oh, this is going to be really we've got gypsies and singing and dancing, and the Taryn teller, and well, this is going to be a fun night out. And of course, it ends in bloodshed and horror every episode. We take a close look at a single aria. And then listen to it with fresh ears today. It's the flower song from these as Carmen is very much a man, and he has always love inside the like of working, or you know, when you have all this Magnin side of you. It's something like this. And for this is this is magical for me. Carmen may be one of the most popular operas now. But it's premier eighteen seventy five was met with shock and horror an entire opera about a gypsy woman, a sexually liberated Dipsy woman. She smokes, she smuggles Shays and seduces she knows she's utterly irresistible. And floss it. Slots it. Truly scandalous. Now, the one thing that didn't seem to bother audiences at the time was the obsessive possessive jealous and ultimately murders soldier Donyo Zeh. And when Carmen eventually leaves him for a bullfighter. Dodgers eight goes nuts and stabs her to death. And here's your lesson for today. Never leave the tenor for the baritone. Now, if you take Carmen at face value, it's completely infuriating because it reflects some pretty outdated an ugly ideas about women. But if you take a slightly broader perspective, it's fascinating too because it holds up a mirror to our culture. No matter what century we're living in and besides all that the music is just unbelievably beautiful. So let's get into it today. We're going to unpacked on jobs as flower song. He's just returned from prison where he's held tight to the flower Carmen gave him when they first met. That would be symbolism. Folks. It got him through those cold lonely nights behind bars. This isn't all sweetness and roses, though, we see flashes of his anger and jealousy here too. So. Yeah. Dodgers as a complicated, man. Struggling to make sense of his complete vulnerability Carmen to help us make sense of him. And this aria I've called some people to help I up tenor. Roberto Alagna who sings this role at the met. On my first choosy. I think I was forty five years old, and I was more impulsive more. Maybe more fragile, you know, and I think today, my shoes is more real. We also have an Majette. Okay. We're rolling. We're good. She's the classical music critic at the Washington Post, and as you can imagine she seemed Carmen a timer to my grandmother when I developed my sudden passion for operation early in college gave me the book of the month club's greatest hits of opera and one of those greatest hits was done jobs as aria, and it was a Pitta me of tenor hood for me. We also have Andrew g Marshall a writer marital therapist and opera fan. If don't Josie and common turned up at my counseling room. I think I might actually bulb the door to be perfectly honest lead certainly hide all the knives. All right. Well, that's our team of Dakotas for this week. Let's set them loose on the flower song from Carmen here. We go. Donncha say is kind of a rube from the sticks in the prosper, Mary may novel on which carbon is based I believe on Zeke has killed a man and he's had to go into the army to get away from his village. People you know. But in the same time is like an hero for the population. 'cause I think in Siviglia small city, everybody talk about this new shoulder will kill somebody and a mysterious man. You know, the things that you need to know about him. They present right at the very beginning. But we tend to sort of rather glaze over it with told that he has a very very strange relationship with his mother. Because his mother seems to be grooming. Wife for him, which I have to say it's just a little bit psychologically weird. I think that's a bit of a manipulative overbearing mother. Dodgers as mother's sins. Mickael of the nice village girl. The girl mic store to kind of try to bring Josie back. And then Carmen comes along and ruins the whole thing Carmen befuddles him as a taste of presumably kind of sensuality and life and vividness that he hasn't had before. And he gets kind of addicted to it. We have a passionate woman a woman who just by touching. This flower imbues it with her earthy sense you holiday. Wow. And he's just had chased kiss delivered by his mother through his girlfriend from outside the church, which of the two would be more appealing to you. This aria marks a turning point in their relationship. But it's also poignant, and that this aria is really all of their relationship that we get to see in the opera that is they've met each other. He's gone to jail for a couple of months. They finally have their long way reunion, and this is their moment. And after two months in jail can imagine he had a lot of memories on the fell in love, more and more and more and more because of the wonderful just of common when she true the flower to him, even that must be something very very exciting. So he is ramped up to almost breaking point by the time. He comes and he actually finally sets his on this delicious creature once again. So she begins dancing with him. And she begins singing she's got cast a Mets and then coming through her dance is the sound of the military call it's time for the soldiers to go back to their barracks. And so he gets up his I'm sorry to go. And she's like, you can't leave. You must not really love me. So the aria comes in the middle of this lover's quarrel, basically, and it's sort of his rebuttal and crew f- that he really means what he says this is his moment to make his big pitch to her. He really wants to make a bid for her motion as he's pulling himself. Together, you hear this poignant introduction from me English horn. Which plays a motif that we've already heard me overture that in this opera signifies fate. It is an inauspicious omen, shall we say the beginning of this moment of love, but it is certainly a beautiful and kind of wistful vocation to set the mood for what he's about to say to her. When you start the Desario, it's very strange because it's another atmosphere totally different of the entire opera. Even in the composition of bizzare. The writing the needs very very different. But also, it's only moment when you see common falling. Very sensitive moment for her. And that she's moved by the words chose as a singing. The love between commandant Josie is not what I would call a mature love. It's about the craziness of falling in love. And this is when limits is height limits is that moment where you are walking on air that even the problems are actually an asset. The fact that she's a gypsy and is going to go all over the world is not a problem because with my love I will help provide a an anchor for her and that sort of moments when you are in the crazy part of falling in love anything is possible is a very difficult offering technically because you start with the F. And this is very difficult because s must be technically close sound. But in French LaFleur is open and the jello between them just before. He's very very very violent and very dramatic. And here you must in one frame just with the entrance of the line. You must find a very soft sound, but muscular male Mel sound. This is not easy. Believe me to to start this F with a good sound. Spends the whole opera clinging to this remembrance of love that quickly has gone sour and dried up just like the flour and the song. So this aria is telling us exactly what to expect jobs as he's the guy that clings to a bunch of withered flower petals, and sort of obsesses about the flower. They once were men say, I love, you your mind, and therefore you're a possession. And I mean, the very toxic sort of ways if I count have you nobody's going to have you controlling kind of way, but women are just as good at manipulating we've already seen his mother controls him through this figure the alternative wife. He got very controlling kind of love. And it's not surprising that the lovey has to offer common is a very controlling love to. So having enacted the frustration of this flirted sexuality if you will then begins to curse her. This is a trope in love poetry through the ages that you are so frustrated by the absence of the beloved that you suddenly hate her. Yes is very interesting because you can feel the love green up into the aria Burt in the same time. He says very very root words. I swore that will eight you. He's been having this internal debate about whether he should love who heater. And he's decision to make is he going to follow her or is he just going to say yet, your tractive woman. But I'm going to stay with my sanity. It's extraordinary moment of passion that could be the foundation for Nuff often, the more unsuitable, it is the stronger, the passion is that is what we've got here. I mean if ever to characters who were destined to destroy each other. They've just met. After he accuses himself of blasphemy, he quickly shifts back to the sort of obsessive nature of his love. And you get a kind of panting rise to another climax in which he's repeating his words over and over again, I only felt one desire one desire one hope to see you again Carmen to see you again, it's repeating repeating repeating the words while the music is cresting and cresting. And here you must do any motto is road, like your heart start to beat more and more and more. And you feel that you know, dissipation of love going up in your soul. The explosion is in of work. Man. This beautiful note because he said, you inflamed, my heart, and I wanted to see you again common. The aria carries through a lot of different emotions because with love and in this case limits. The res fear limits is the most wonderful feeling in the world. But it's also the most terrible because this love might be unrequited. If you are somebody who follows the rules, and is living a life of dull Judy somebody who is passionate and leading a life of freedom is getting to be incredibly appealing because she is your opposition. Unfortunately, our job is not just to grab opposites and hope that that's going to source out. We actually have to do the emotional of selves finding a balance between Jew, tea and passion. In the final section than he in a way a basis himself. He says all you had to do appear and look at me once to take over my entire being. And I became your thing. I became something of yours saying that she claimed him as for satellite and the most important phrase for me is at the end when he said that I was not meant for you anymore. I was a thing for you. And at the moment when he says, I became your thing comes the climax of the aria in the very highest note that he sings. I never know before this moment in which way, I will sing this phrase. The most important it's to be sincere in that moment, not calculating. If you calculated is not rosy. And if you prepare this phrase before in your dressing room, it's wrong. The interpretation Merced be in that moment. You must seem this in many ways why because it's like reload you can be in it like an exhilaration or like a scream of despair. It can be something like a shame, and they can be whispering e can be also screaming of deliverance, and he can before piano. Even if you crack it doesn't matter because it means you are moved and fragile. In fact, you have free to do what you want. This is the beauty of this phrase. Having given that ringing high note Immelt into one of the sweetest phrases and operas this Carmen, I love you, which is rather than being her roic is the sweet honeyed extended line. He holds out the takes a long time for the orchestra dissolve soup. This long time of musical uncertainty where has love is kind of out there. And then at long last the court comes at the very end. Get it's all going to be okay. And you're just in this moment of like, oh, it's all fine, and he loves her. And then she looks at him. And she goes, no, you don't love me the whole opera kind of goes downhill from there as far as their relationship is concerned. I think I was forty five years old, and I was more impulsive more. Maybe more fragile you know, because you don't have a lot of experiences of life and everything now is changed because I'm more mature today. I'm fifty five it's more than twenty years frequenting. These discard before when I was younger I judged little bit too much actually today, I have more compassion and more tolerance. Because I I understand more the relation between men's and women's and the send more about love. And I think today my shoes Rosie is more complete with maturity with experience. My shows. It today is more real it's more human. It's. More not rural and most, sir. The traditional way of seeing communist as this fem battle, and she chews up men for breakfast and spits them out and pour Dundas as as a kind of hapless victim at the mercy of this sexual woman. But our ideas about agency and femininity have advanced enough that now for women to be free agent and try to stand up to a man who bullies her is an idea that's given a lot more credence shall we say, and we're a lot quicker to recognize a man's bullying behavior as abuse. Fortunately, there are still ways to stage this opera with outstripping the aria of its meaning it's really lovely piece of music. Going to the opera is an intense experience because per is one of the few places left that you can experience the dark side of humanity. Unfortunately, modern stories have to end happily the couple have to overcome everything and live happily ever after. I don't think there's anything harmful. If actually telling us that love can go wrong. I think the much worse thing is what I would call the Disney style that love will overcome everything. Love is the answer. I ain't no mountain high enough, etc. Etc. Etc. Every second pop song is about love will come through for you. You can't actually see the destructive part of love anywhere. Really these days beyond the opera something about the music and the spectacle allows us to look at the very worst of us. Serves as well. As the very best of ourselves. That was tenor. Roberto Alagna music critic, and Majette and marital therapist, Andrew g Marshall decoding the flower song from visas Carmen, ready to hear it all the way through cures. Roberto performing it live from the met stage. So there we have it song of such supreme deity some by complicated, man. Naturally. It's complicated opera to perform these days. Donnas kills Carmen. It's ugly. And it goes against everything. We're trying to be -ociety. Some people might say that we shouldn't enjoy these works of art anymore that they're too problematic and that we should race them from cultural memory, but if you're going to raise Carmen, you might as well just get rid of all of western civilization because so much of it is built on slavery subjugation of women. All these other power dynamics that were working so hard to correct. And so I say that we can't really do that we can't just erase these works and actually wouldn't want to. So then what maybe we find a way of unpacking them without totally picking them apart. Maybe we find new ways of seeing them directing them. So that they shine a light on not only where we have come from. But where we are now. And how far we still need to go all the while. We appreciate them for what they are magnificent pieces of art. That concludes our first season REI code. I know I'm said, but we hope to be back soon with many more episodes as we wrap up this first season of code. I just wanna say thank you for joining me on this journey and thanks for all the wonderful things. You've said about the show at really made my day. I'd also like to thank the team of people who've been working with me to bring the show to life. Producer is Marianne. Latvian Brinton Francis Newnham editor and Matt Abramowicz is executive producer sound design and mixing by Matt Pointon and original music by Hannah's Brown. Our team also includes Krista ripple and Justin Hicks. Thanks, always our special guests, Roberto Alagna and Majette and Andrew g Marshall for their insights this shows a co production of w q r and the Metropolitan Opera, that's it for the season of area code. I'm ranting ins-. And thank you. Okay.

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