Comparison Carmen Micaela in the opera

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 10:48   /   Views: 337
This essay compares the characters of Carmen and Micaela in the opera.
Bizet: Carmen

I Introduction

Carmen is a wonderful opera. The story of a love gone horribly wrong, it is filled with beautiful music that serves a realistic plot line. There is none of the spectacle that we associate with operas like “Aida” or Wagner’s “Ring,” but none is needed, for we are caught in a human drama.
This paper compares and contrasts two of the characters, Carmen and Micaela.

II Discussion

There are actually two pairs of characters that we could examine, Carmen and Micaela; and Escamillo and Don Jose. We might loosely characterize Carmen and Escamillo as the “bad” guys; and Micaela and Don Jose as “good,” though they are really far too complex to fit easily into any such pigeonholes. They are passionate people, and that leads to their downfall. The New York City Opera cast plays out this timeless tragedy in style, though at least one critic was not particularly kind. He described Katharine Goeldner’s (Carmen) movement as “awkward,” though he liked her voice. He found Carl Tanner’s Don Jose equally stiff physically which made him a good match for Goeldner’s Carmen, and merely adequate vocally; Paulo Szot as Escamillo fared slightly better in the reviewer’s eyes, who suggests that he is a still-developing talent; and Nicolle Foland “sang Micaela’s music sweetly and with an air of innocent devotion, which is everything one needs in a Micaela.” (Kozinn 2003, E5).
With that “damned-with-faint-praise” review in mind, let’s examine the characters of Carmen and Micaela. Micaela is the only truly good person in the opera. She is a girl from Don Jose’s village who is now taking care of his mother. Furthermore, she is the woman Jose’s mother would like to see married to her son. When she first appears, she asks the other soldiers if Don Jose is in the barracks, and when they flirt with her, she says she has to leave, and will be back later. (Carmen would have flirted right back, and beat them at their own game.)
When she meets Don Jose, she kisses him on the cheek, saying that the kiss is from his mother. His reaction is gentle: he says that she reminds him of home, and that through her kiss, he can see his mother and their village. Then he kisses her on the cheek and tells her to give that kiss to the older woman when she returns to their town. The entire encounter is chaste and very sweet. The kisses are gentle, with no hint of passion or sensuality.
Carmen’s first encounter with Don Jose is anything but chaste, sweet or passionless. The first moment she sees him, Carmen determines to have the soldier; it’s never clear whether or not she truly loves him, but she certainly wants him. It seems to be her way of amusing herself; someone says that Carmen’s love affairs don’t last long. But Jose falls deeply in love, and sets the tragedy in motion.
The first time Jose sees Carmen, she is dancing and flirting in the town square. She notices him because he’s the only man who isn’t paying attention to her, and it intrigues her. She finally throws a flower in his face and runs off. Her behavior at all times is the direct antithesis of Micaela: where the latter is prim, Carmen is wild; where Micaela is devout; Carmen seems to have no religion; where Micaela is chaste; Carmen is sensual. They are textbook examples of “good” and “bad” women. It’s no surprise that Carmen seems far more vital, exciting and alive than Micaela.
Physically they are different as well. Micaela is described in the libretto itself as having blonde hair in braids, and wearing a blue dress. The dress is very modestly cut, and buttoned up to the neck. Micaela usually has a shawl.
Carmen’s hair is dark, and unlike Micaela she wears it down and loose, indicating her greater freedom. The girls who work in the cigarette factory usually wear only their petticoats, and Carmen is no exception. We thus have a free spirit, with her hair unbound, wearing revealing clothes in contrast to the buttoned-up, braided Micaela.

III Musical Differences

Micaela is a pivotal character, but she’s not on stage much. Her arias and duets are about home, devotion, and filial responsibility. Her first duet with Jose is about his mother and their home; her song in the gypsy camp is another effort to get Jose to leave Carmen and come home. She sings about Jose, and his mother, not about herself. Her music is melodic, but it doesn’t begin to compare to Carmen’s sensual singing.
The “Habanera,” which Carmen sings in Act I, is one of the most famous pieces in opera. It is slow, sensual, and celebrates the delights of love. Later in the same act, she sings the “Seguidilla,” another seductive song about drinking and dancing, which she uses to entice Jose into releasing her. Her music throughout is more sinuous, sensual and enchanting than Micaela’s. She sings about herself and the delights she offers, and while this may seem self-centered, it makes her a more interesting character, particularly as she warns men not to love her at the same time that she sets out to attract them. This basic conflict in her character is fascinating.

IV Conclusion

“Carmen” is an opera that rewards repeated viewings. There are always new layers to peel back, and more to discover. In addition, it features some of the most ravishing music ever written. It seems to me to be a “lean” opera, with not a single note more than is needed; no spectacle, no extra ballet, not one thing more than essential. As I said, it’s a wonderful opera.

V References
Carmen. Dir. Francesco Rosi. With Placido Domingo, Julia Migenes-Johnson, Ruggero Raimondi, Faith Esham. Triumph Films, Inc., 1984.

Cross, Milton. 1952. “Carmen.” Complete Stories of the Great Operas. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.: 99-110.

Kozinn, Allan. “Back in Seville, With Somber Hues.” The New York Times (Late Edition) East Coast, 18 Mar 2003: E-5.

Article name: Comparison Carmen Micaela in the opera essay, research paper, dissertation